Sylvester James Gates: History
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Subjects: Others
  • supersymmetry
  • supergravity
  • technology

Basic Information

Sylvester James Gates
Name: Sylvester James Gates
(Dec 1950–)
Tampa, Florida, United States
Title: Physicist
Affiliations: Massachusetts Institute of Technology University of Maryland, College Park Brown University
Honors: Klopsteg Memorial Award (2003) National Medal of Science (2013)

1. Introduction

Sylvester James Gates Jr. (born December 15, 1950), known as S. James Gates Jr. or Jim Gates, is an American theoretical physicist who works on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. He retired from the physics department and Center for Fundamental Physics at the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences in 2017,[1] and he is now the Brown Theoretical Physics Center Director, the Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, Affiliate Professor of Mathematics, and Watson Institute for International Studies & Public Affairs Faculty Fellow at Brown University.[2] He was a University of Maryland Regents Professor and served on former President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.[3]

2. Biography

Gates, the oldest of four siblings, was born in Tampa, Florida, the son of Sylvester James Gates, Sr., a career U.S. Army man, and Charlie Engels Gates. His mother died when he was 11. When his father remarried, his new stepmother, a teacher, brought books into the home and emphasized the importance of education.[4] The family moved many times while Gates was growing up, but, as he was entering 11th grade, settled in Orlando, Florida, where James attended Jones High School—his first experience in a segregated African-American school. Comparing his own school's quality to neighboring white schools, "I understood pretty quickly that the cards were really stacked against us."[5] Nevertheless, an 11th grade course in physics established Gates' career interest in that field, especially its mathematical side. At his father's urging, he applied for admission to MIT.

Gates received two BS degrees from MIT in Mathematics and Physics (1973) as well as his PhD (1977). His doctoral thesis was the first at MIT on supersymmetry. With M. T. Grisaru, M. Rocek and W. Siegel, Gates coauthored Superspace, or One thousand and one lessons in supersymmetry (1984), the first comprehensive book on supersymmetry.[6]

Gates is on the board of trustees of Society for Science & the Public and is active in scientific outreach.

Gates was a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar at MIT (2010–11) and was a Residential Scholar at MIT's Simmons Hall. He is pursuing ongoing research into string theory, supersymmetry, and supergravity at Brown University. His current research focus is on Adinkra symbols, a graph-theoretic technique for studying supersymmetric representation theories.[7][8]

In 2018, Gates was elected to the presidential line of the American Physical Society: he began serving as its Vice President in 2019, and will serve as President as of 2021.[9]

3. Awards and Recognition

Gates' work has earned him recognition by Mathematically Gifted & Black as a Black History Month 2017 Honoree.[10]

On February 1, 2013, Gates was a recipient of the National Medal of Science.[11] Gates was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2013.[12]

Gates was nominated by the Department of Energy as one of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's "Nifty Fifty" Speakers to present his work and career to middle- and high-school students in October 2010.[13]

On December 5, 2016, Gates spoke at the 2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress, the largest ever gathering of physics undergraduates.

In 1994, Gates received the Edward A. Bouchet Award from the American Physical Society "for his contributions to theoretical high-energy physics."[14]

4. Media Appearances

Recently Gates has been featured in TurboTax and Verizon commercials and has been featured extensively on NOVA PBS programs on physics, notably The Elegant Universe (2003). He completed a DVD series titled Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality (2006) for The Teaching Company consisting of 24 half-hour lectures to make the complexities of unification theory comprehensible to laypeople.[15]

During the 2008 World Science Festival, Gates narrated a ballet "The Elegant Universe", where he gave a public presentation of the artistic forms connected to his scientific research.[16] Gates Appeared on the 2011 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate: The Theory of Everything, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.[17] Gates also appeared in the BBC Horizon documentary The Hunt for Higgs in 2012, and the NOVA documentary Big Bang Machine in 2015.

5. Publications

  • Superspace or 1001 Lessons in Supersymmetry, (with M. T. Grisaru, M. Roček, and W. Siegel), Benjamin-Cummings Publishing Company (1983), Reading, MA (On-line;
  • L'arte della fisica superspace, Stringhe, superstringhe, teoria unificata dei campi, 2006, Di Renzo Editore, ISBN:88-8323-155-4.
  • Reality in the Shadows (or) What the Heck's the Higgs?, (with Steven Jacob Sekula and Frank Blitzer), YBK Publishers, Inc. (2018), New York, New York, (ISBN:978-1-936411-39-9).
  • Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe, (with Cathie Pelletier), Publisher: PublicAffairs (September 24, 2019) ISBN:978-1541762251.

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Further Reading
In this part, we encourage you to list the link of papers wrote by the character, or published reviews/articles about his/her academic contributions.


  1. Sickles, Kate. "Gates, Sylvester - UMD Physics" (in en-us). 
  2. "Welcoming Jim Gates, our new Ford Foundation Professor of Physics | Physics | Brown University" (in en). 
  3. "UMD PCAST announcement". University of Maryland. Retrieved April 30, 2009. 
  4. "Gates, Jr., Sylvester James 1950–", at retrieved 2019/09/28.
  5. Henry Aller, "Sylvester James Gates (1950-)," Black Past, at , retrieved 2019/09/28.
  6. Gates, S. James; Grisaru, M. T.; Rocek, M.; Siegel, W. (1983). "Superspace". American Institute of Physics. 
  7. "Welcoming Jim Gates, our new Ford Foundation Professor of Physics". 
  8. Template:Cite YouTube
  9. "Gates elected to presidential line of the American Physical Society" (in en). 
  10. "Sylvester James Gates Jr.". 
  12. "S. James Gates". Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  13. Nifty Fifty, USA Science and Engineering Festival
  14. "1994 Edward A. Bouchet Award Recipient". 
  15. "Sylvester James Gates Jr. lecture". News@Concordia. Concordia University. 
  16. Armitage, Karole; Ligeti, Lukas; Gates, Jim. "The Elegant Universe". Science & the City Podcast. New York Academy of Sciences. Retrieved December 1, 2015. 
  17. 2011 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate: The Theory of Everything on YouTube
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