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  • Renowned physicist at OSU dies at 72

    Saturday, October 30, 1999

    By David Lore
    Dispatch Science Reporter

  • Robert L. Mills was the co-author of the 1954 Yang-Mills theory in mathematical physics.

    Robert L. Mills, Ohio State University professor emeritus and co- author of the 1954 Yang-Mills theory in mathematical physics, died Oct. 27 at his summer home in East Charleston, Vt., after a long illness.

    Mills, 72, retired from OSU in 1955 after 39 years on the faculty as a teacher of theoretical physics. He was vice chairman for undergraduate studies. OSU colleagues also recalled his significant contributions to quantum field theory and the theory of alloys.

    After his retirement, Mills lectured for a year as a Fulbright Scholar at St. Patrick's College in Ireland.

    A native of New Jersey, Mills graduated with honors in mathematics from Columbia University in 1948 before earning graduate degrees at Cambridge University in England and at Columbia.

    His collaboration with physicist Chen Ning Yang began at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the early 1950s when Mills was a 27-year-old research associate.

    Yang went on to win the Nobel Prize in physics in 1957 for other work.

    In a 1995 interview with The Dispatch, Mills described Yang-Mills as "a theory of forces between nuclear particles analogous to the electromagnetic theory of forces between electrically charged particles.''

    Mills said it extended Einstein's idea "that the fundamental symmetries of nature could actually dictate the character of the force fields of nature.''

    Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia describes Yang-Mills as "a beautiful example of the intense bonds between current theoretical physics and all subfields of core mathematics.''

    To this day, said OSU physics professor William Palmer, their work "forms the basis for all modern developments in particle physics and string theory.''

    Mills and Yang received the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Rumford Prize in 1980.

    Mills was also honored at OSU for his work with undergraduates and the university's international affairs program.

    He is survived by his wife, Elise; a brother, William H. Mills; and children Katherine Anderson, Edward A. Mills, Jonathan C. Mills, Susan Warner-Mills and Dorothy H. Mills.

    Services and burial will be today in East Charleston, Vt. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 20 at Indianola Presbyterian Church in Columbus.


    Copyright © 1999, The Columbus Dispatch