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My mother liked me and believed in me

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Individuality and freedom: its importance and its absence
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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I was very interested in etymology, and I still am. I'm very interested in history of languages and the relationships of languages... extremely interested. And... all of these subjects resemble one another a little bit in that they deal with... areas in which individuality is very important, diversity is very important, evolutionary processes are very important, evolutionary trees of one sort or another are very important.

[Q] Now I can now see your passion for Santa Fe Institute, which we'll talk about later, but I can see that the groundwork was laid very early. Could you say anything about... religion and politics? Was that a theme in your household or growing up?

Religion certainly was not much of a theme...politics, yes... liberal, even left wing politics, but my father was very sceptical about Stalin and... the Stalinist branch of... socialism. He realised that the... Soviet communists had... done a lot to industrialize the country rapidly – of course there’s no assurance that it couldn’t have been industrialized better and faster under capitalism, which was just taking hold... when the First World War broke out. But... he recognized that, but he... he was very... sceptical about the... the lack of freedom in the... in the... the Soviet Union.

New York-born physicist Murray Gell-Mann is known for his creation of the eightfold way, an ordering system for subatomic particles, comparable to the periodic table. His discovery of the omega-minus particle filled a gap in the system, brought the theory wide acceptance and led to Gell-Mann's winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969.

Listeners: Geoffrey West

Geoffrey West is a Staff Member, Fellow, and Program Manager for High Energy Physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He is also a member of The Santa Fe Institute. He is a native of England and was educated at Cambridge University (B.A. 1961). He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1966 followed by post-doctoral appointments at Cornell and Harvard Universities. He returned to Stanford as a faculty member in 1970. He left to build and lead the Theoretical High Energy Physics Group at Los Alamos. He has numerous scientific publications including the editing of three books. His primary interest has been in fundamental questions in Physics, especially those concerning the elementary particles and their interactions. His long-term fascination in general scaling phenomena grew out of his work on scaling in quantum chromodynamics and the unification of all forces of nature. In 1996 this evolved into the highly productive collaboration with James Brown and Brian Enquist on the origin of allometric scaling laws in biology and the development of realistic quantitative models that analyse the influence of size on the structural and functional design of organisms.

Tags: Santa Fe Institute, World War I, Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin

Duration: 1 minute, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008