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Vernon Hughes

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Biography

Vernon W. Hughes was a physicist who studied the subatomic phenomena known as mouns. His research contributed to the theory of supersymmetry.

Hughes was born in Kankakee, Illinois, and studied physics with Nobel-prize winner Isidor Isaac Rabi at Columbia University, where he earned a doctorate. He worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory during World War II, helping to develop radar.

He became a member of the physics faculty at Yale University in 1954 and held a central role in the development, five years later, of new techniques for measuring particles in high-energy accelerators using polarized beams. This technology allowed physicists to begin charting the proton’s internal structure.

In the 1960s, Hughes pioneered the study and measurement of muons, the rare and relatively heavy cousins of electrons, and tested their response to magnetic fields at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. His study made the surprising finding that muons did not operate in predictable ways, which suggested that other, unknown particles operated in the subatomic world. To many of his peers, this inference supported the concept of supersymmetry: that new partners must exist for each known particle. Physicists continue to use particle accelerators to test this theory.

Hughes became a leader on the CERN project outside of Geneva, Switzerland. He directed a research team that used the CERN accelerator to confirm that protons had gluons as well as quarks which caused the protons to spin.

He won numerous awards, including the Rumford Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.