One year ago I had the pleasure to spend some time with George Zweig during a conference in Crete (ICNFP 2013). He is a wonderful storyteller and a great chap to hung around with, and I had great fun in the after-dinners on the terrace of the Orthodox Academy of Crete overlooking the Aegean sea, drinking raki and chatting about physics and other subjects.

Zweig is acknowledged as one of the two men who understood how hadrons were composed of smaller entities in particle-antiparticle pairs or particle triplets: quarks, as Gell-Mann called them, or Aces, as Zweig named them. However, this is often not stressed well enough, as Gell-Mann is most of the times the only person named for the quark hypothesis. For one thing, Gell-Mann got the Nobel prize for his intuition, Zweig did not.

Wikipedia states, in Gell-Mann's biography:

"In 1964, Gell-Mann and, independently, George Zweig went on to postulate the existence of quarks, particles of which the hadrons of this scheme are composed. The name was coined by Gell-Mann and is a reference to the novel Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce ("Three quarks for Muster Mark!" book 2, episode 4.) Zweig had referred to the particles as "aces",[6] but Gell-Mann's name caught on. Quarks, antiquarks, and gluons were soon established as the underlying elementary objects in the study of the structure of hadrons. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in physics in 1969 for his contributions and discoveries concerning the classification of elementary particles and their interactions."

So Zweig, unfortunately, did not get a Nobel prize for his equally brilliant intuition. Here is the story, as he reported it last December in a CERN newsletter (thanks to Tony Smith for bringing it to my attention):

"... I wanted to send a paper to the Physical Review, but the head of the Theory Division, Leon Van Hove, wouldn’t allow it. He told me that all reports from CERN had to be published in European journals, even though American institutions paid my salary, overhead, and publication costs. When I asked the theory secretary, Madame Fabergé, to retype the paper for publication, she politely refused, saying that Van Hove had instructed her not to type any of my papers. This was a real problem because I didn’t know how to type, and didn’t have a typewriter (remember, I was trained as a typesetter, not a typist).
I was scheduled to give a theory seminar at CERN titled ``Dealer’s choice: Aces are Wild”. Van Hove cancelled the seminar, and I was not allowed to reschedule it. When Van Hove and Kokedee published a book four years later reprinting articles on the quark model they did not include either of the CERN reports. Van Hove deliberately and systematically tried to keep my work from public view. ...".

The story was recounted to me with even more detail by George last year, but I had decided not to blog about it, as he did not like the idea too much. Now, however, the quote is public and I don't feel I am doing him a disservice if I mention it here.

I believe the behaviour of the Theory Division head Van Hove is beyond appalling, and Tony Smith is right when he wonders (as he did in the comments thread of the former post here) whether similar things can still happen today. George Zweig was greatly damaged by the unsound decision of a bureaucrat. This story should be re-told and publicized because I really can't stand thinking that it may happen again.