Murray Gell-Mann brings visibility to a crucial aspect of our existence that we can't actually see: elemental particles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics for introducing quarks, one of two fundamental ingredients for all matter in the universe.
He's been called "the man with five brains" -- and Murray Gell-Mann has the resume to prove it. In addition to being a Nobel laureate, he is an accomplished physicist who's earned numerous awards, medals and honorary degrees for his work with subatomic particles, including the groundbreaking theory that the nucleus of an atom comprises 100 or so fundamental building blocks called quarks.
Gell-Mann's influence extends well beyond his field: He's a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He also serves on the board of the Wildlife Conservation Society and is a director of Encyclopedia Britannica. Gell-Mann, a professor emeritus of Caltech, now heads the evolution of human languages program at the Santa Fe Institute, which he cofounded in 1984.
A prolific writer -- he's penned scores of academic papers and several books, including The Quark and the Jaguar -- Gell-Mann is also the subject of the popular science biography Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in 20th-Century Physics.
“Modern language must be older than the cave paintings and cave engravings and cave sculptures and dance steps in the soft clay in the caves in Western Europe, in the Aurignacian Period some 35,000 years ago, or earlier. I can’t believe they did all those things and didn’t also have a modern language.”