Benjamin Whisoh Lee (Korean이휘소; January 1, 1935 – June 16, 1977) or Ben Lee, was a Korean-born American theoretical physicist. His work in theoretical particle physics exerted great influence on the development of the standard model in the late 20th century, especially on the renormalization of the electro-weak model and gauge theory.

Benjamin Whisoh Lee
Benjamin W. Lee
donated by third elder brother, Cheol-eung
Born(1935-01-01)January 1, 1935
DiedJune 16, 1977(1977-06-16) (aged 42)
Kewanee, Illinois, United States
ResidenceGlen Ellyn, Illinois, United States
NationalityKorea under Japanese rule (1935–1945)
South Korean (1945–1968)
American (1968–1977)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materKyunggi High School
Miami University
University of Pittsburgh
University of Pennsylvania
Known forWeak interaction
Gauge theory
Lee-Weinberg bound
Spouse(s)Marianne Mun Ching Sim
AwardsOrder of Camellia
(Order of Civil Merit of South Korea)
Scientific career
FieldsQuantum field theory
Particle physics
Theoretical physics
InstitutionsUniversity of Pennsylvania
Institute for Advanced Study
Stony Brook University
University of Chicago
Doctoral advisorAbraham Klein
Notable studentsBurt Ovrut
InfluencedAbdus Salam
Gerard 't Hooft
Korean name
Revised RomanizationI Hwiso
McCune–ReischauerI Hwiso
Signature of Benjamin W. Lee
Biography of Benjamin W. Lee by JooSang Kang

He predicted the mass of the Charm quark and contributed to its search. Since his inception as a physicist, he has published 110 papers for about 20 years, of which 77 papers have been published in the journal. There are 69 papers cited more than 10 times and eight papers cited more than 500 times. As of October 2013, all of his papers are cited more than 13,400 times.[1] As a major disciple, Kang Joo-sang, professor emeritus at the Department of Physics at Korea University, is also the motif of the fictional character Lee Yong-hu in Kim Jin-myung's novel, "The Rose of Sharon Blooms Again"



Lee was born in Yongsan, Seoul. Both his parents were trained as doctors. Whisoh was the eldest of four siblings. His mother was the wage winner of the household, who was initially employed as a doctor at a hospital and later opened her own practice specializing in pediatrics and obstetrics/gynaecology.[2] Lee took the entrance exam for Kyunggi Middle School and was accepted. He was an excellent pupil. The Korean War broke out on his 4th year. Lee's family evacuated to the Busan Perimeter and Whisoh continued his schooling there. One year before graduating Kyunggi High School, he entered the department of chemical engineering at Seoul National University at the top of his class. While in college he emigrated to the United States through a scholarship program enabled by the association of spouses of the military officers who participated in the Korean War.[2] Lee received his Bachelor of Science degree at Miami University (1956), Master of Science at the University of Pittsburgh (1958), and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania (1961). Lee worked at Institute for Advanced Study and was a professor of physics at University of Pennsylvania, SUNY at Stony Brook, University of Chicago, and head of the theoretical physics department at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976.[3] On June 16, 1977, he was killed in a car accident not far from Kewanee, Illinois (on the Interstate 80).[4] Lee was regarded by his peers as a world-class elementary particle physicist at the time of his sudden death.[5][6][7][8] He studied gauge theory and weak interactions.


Gauge theoryEdit

In 1964, Lee published an article about spontaneous symmetry breaking with his advisor Abraham Klein and contributed to the appearance of Higgs mechanism.[9] He is often credited with the naming of the Higgs boson and Higgs mechanism.[10][11][12] And in 1969, he succeeded individually the renormalization of the spontaneously breaking global gauge symmetry model.[13] In the mean time, Dutch graduate student Gerardus 't Hooft was working in the case of local gauge symmetry breaking in the Yang–Mills theory using the Higgs mechanism. He met Lee and Symanzik at the Cargèse Summer School and consulted them on his work and got an insight.[14][15] He finally succeeded in the renormalization of non-abelian gauge theory and won the Nobel Prize later for this work.[16][17] David Politzer said in his 2004 Nobel Lecture that the particle physicists community at that time learned all from Lee who actually combined insights from his own work and from Russian physicists' work and encouraged 't Hooft's paper.[18]

Charm quarkEdit

Glashow, Maiani and Iliopoulos predicted charm quarks to match the experimental results. Lee wrote an article with Gaillard and Rosner [19] and predicted the mass of the charm quarks by calculating the quantities which correspond to the mixing and decay of K meson.


In 1977, Lee and Weinberg wrote an article about the lower bound on heavy neutrino mass.[20] In this paper, they revealed that if the heavy and stable particles in the early universe which can only be transferred into other particles through the pair annihilation remain as relics after the universe's expansion, then the strength of the interaction should be bigger than 2 GeV. This calculation can be applied to find the amount of the dark matter. This bound is called the Lee-Weinberg bound.

Lee's promotion of gauge theoriesEdit

Weinberg's 1967 paper A Model of Leptons[21] has over 15,000 citations and played a key role in the award of his 1979 Nobel prize. In 1972 at a conference at Fermilab, Lee gave a talk Perspectives on Theory of Weak Interactions[22] that brought Weinberg's 1967 paper out of obscurity and explained many aspects of gauge theories to a large audience.[23]

Controversy over deathEdit

A South Korean fictional novel allegedly based on Lee's death was published in 1993, which presumably suggested that Lee tried to help South Korea's dictatorship develop nuclear weapons, and implied that the U.S.' Central Intelligence Agency had some connection to his death. In actuality, he vigorously opposed the autocratic system of South Korea at that time and he canceled every program he designed for South Korean graduate education about particle physics in opposition to that government.[2] According to a Fermilab memoriam, Lee died in a car accident on Illinois highway I-80 in 1977, at age 42. A semi-trailer crossed the highway divide and collided with his car.



  • Lee, Benjamin W. (1972). Chiral Dynamics. Documents on modern physics. New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers. ISBN 0-677-01380-9.

Selected papersEdit


  1. ^ "Lee, Benjamin W. - Profile - INSPIRE-HEP". Retrieved 2018-03-31.
  2. ^ a b c JooSang Kang (2007). 이휘소평전(양장본 Hard Cover) 이휘소평전 [Lee Whiso : a critical biography] (in Korean). LUX Media. ISBN 89-89822-70-X.
  3. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter L" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  4. ^ "Dr. Benjamin Lee, 42, of Fermilab; Noted Physicist Was Crash Victim". The New York Times. 18 June 1977.
  5. ^ Chris Quigg & Steven Weinberg (Sep 1977). "Benjamin W. Lee". Physics Today. 30 (9): 76. Bibcode:1977PhT....30i..76Q. doi:10.1063/1.3037723.
  6. ^ "In Memoriam Benjamin W. Lee". Fermilab. 1977.
  7. ^ "Ben Lee Memorial International Conference at Fermi Lab". 1977.
  8. ^ James Riordon. "PRL Top Ten: #1 A Model of Leptons (an APS News interview with Steven Weinberg)". American Physical Society.
  9. ^ A. Klein & B.W. Lee (1964). "Does Spontaneous Breakdown of Symmetry Imply Zero-Mass Particles?". Physical Review Letters. 12 (10): 266. Bibcode:1964PhRvL..12..266K. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.12.266.
  10. ^ "Rochester's Hagen Sakurai Prize Announcement" (Press release). University of Rochester. 2010. Archived from the original on 2008-04-16.
  11. ^ C.R. Hagen Sakurai Prize Talk (YouTube). 2010.
  12. ^ Ian Sample (29 May 2009), "Anything but the God particle", Guardian
  13. ^ Benjamin W. Lee (1969). "Renormalization of the σ-model". Nuclear Physics B. 9 (5): 649–672. Bibcode:1969NuPhB...9..649L. doi:10.1016/0550-3213(69)90065-0.
  14. ^ Gerardus 't Hooft (1999). "Autobiography".
  15. ^ Soo-Jong Rey (December 1999). 1999년 노벨 물리학상에 즈음하여: 토프트, 벨트만, 이휘소, 그리고 입자 물리학의 미래 [At the time of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1999: 't Hooft, Veltman, Ben Lee and the future of particle physics] (in Korean). 물리학과 첨단기술. Archived from the original on 2011-07-22.
  16. ^ G. 't Hooft (1971). "Renormalizable Lagrangians for massive Yang-Mills fields". Nuclear Physics B. 35 (1): 167–188. Bibcode:1971NuPhB..35..167T. doi:10.1016/0550-3213(71)90139-8.
  17. ^ "Nobel '99 A Strong Vote for Electroweak Theory". Fermi News. 1999-12-17.
  18. ^ David Politzer (2004). "The Dilemma of Attribution".
  19. ^ Gaillard, M. K.; Lee, B. W. & Rosner, J. L. (1975). "Search for charm". Rev. Mod. Phys. 47 (2): 277–310. Bibcode:1975RvMP...47..277G. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.47.277.
  20. ^ Lee B.W.; Weinberg S. (1977). "Cosmological Lower Bound on Heavy-Neutrino Masses". Physical Review Letters. 39 (4): 165. Bibcode:1977PhRvL..39..165L. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.39.165.
  21. ^ Weinberg, S. (1967). "A Model of Leptons" (PDF). Phys. Rev. Lett. 19 (21): 1264–1266. Bibcode:1967PhRvL..19.1264W. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.19.1264. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-12.
  22. ^ Lee, B. W. (1972). "Perspectives on Theory of Weak Interactions" (PDF). EConf 720906: 249–305.
  23. ^ Veltman, Martinus (2003). Facts and mysteries in elementary particle physics. World Scientific. p. 274. ISBN 981238149X.

External linksEdit