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Sylvester James Gates, Jr.

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Information about Sylvester James Gates, Jr.

Profile image of Sylvester James Gates, Jr.

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Physicist
Physics Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Ham
Favorite Time of Year:
Winter
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
12/15/1950
Birth Location:
Tampa, Florida

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Physicist
Physics Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Ham
Favorite Time of Year:
Winter
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
12/15/1950
Birth Location:
Tampa
See how Sylvester James Gates, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Physicist and physics professor Sylvester James Gates, Jr. was born on December 15, 1950 in Tampa, Florida to Charlie Engels and Sylvester James Gates, Sr. His father worked for the U.S. Army, causing the family to move many times. Gates had lived in six cities by the time he reached the sixth grade. His parents always stressed the importance of education and his father bought him a Encyclopedia Britannica set when he was just eight years old, sparking his interest in science. Gates graduated from High School in 1969. With the encouragement of his father, Gates applied and was admitted to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He earned his B.S. degrees in mathematics and physics in 1973. Gates remained at MIT for four more years, earning his Ph.D. degree in physics in 1977. His thesis, “Symmetry Principles in Selected Problems of Field Theory,” was the first at MIT to deal with supersymmetry.

In 1977, Gates went on to attend Harvard University as a junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. He remained at Harvard until 1980, when he moved to California to work as a research fellow with the California Institute of Technology. In 1982, Gates accepted a position as an assistant professor of applied mathematics at MIT. During this time, he also served as director of the Office of Minority Education. Gates joined the University of Maryland as an associate professor of physics in 1984, and became a full professor in 1988. He briefly served as a professor of physics at Howard University from 1990-1993, before returning to teach exclusively at the University of Maryland in 1994. While at Howard, Gates served as the director of the Center for the Study of Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres. In 1998, Gates was named the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, becoming the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major research university in the United States.

Gates’s work in mathematics and theoretical physics has greatly contributed to knowledge about supersymmetry, supergravity and string theory. He has written or co-written over 120 research papers and articles. Working with M.T. Gisaru, M. Rocek, and W. Siegel, Gates co-authored Superspace or 1001 Lessons in Supersymmetry, a standard textbook on the topic of supersymmetry. Gates received numerous honors and awards, including being the first recipient of the American Physical Society’s Edward A. Bouchet Award. In 2009, President Barack Obama named Gates a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In addition to his research, Gates is known for advocating the importance of education and being able to easily explain complex physics theories to a non-physics audience.

Sylvester James Gates, Jr was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 30, 2012.

See how Sylvester James Gates, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvester Gates' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sylvester Gates lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sylvester Gates describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sylvester Gates talks about his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sylvester Gates describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sylvester Gates talks about his father's experience in the U.S. Army and his passion for education
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sylvester Gates talks about his father's passion for education
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sylvester Gates talks about how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sylvester Gates talks about his father's experience serving in the U.S. Army and the Red Ball Express
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sylvester Gates talks about realizing the vast range of skin tones among African Americans
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sylvester Gates describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sylvester Gates talks about the "beauty" of mathematics
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sylvester Gates talks about his siblings and his growing up as a military child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sylvester Gates talks about losing his mother to breast cancer
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sylvester Gates describes his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sylvester Gates talks about his early interest in science and his impetus to become a scientist
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sylvester Gates talks about his interest in space and airplanes
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sylvester Gates talks about his interest in science and science fiction television shows
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sylvester Gates talks about the artistry of Jack Kirby
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sylvester Gates talks about culture and his first encounter with racism
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sylvester Gates talks about growing up in Orlando, Florida
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sylvester Gates talks about his high school physics teacher, Mr. Freeman Coney
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sylvester Gates talks about his teenage interests
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sylvester Gates talks about his involvement in sports during high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sylvester Gates talks about his valedictorian address
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sylvester Gates talks about his speech as valedictorian of his high school
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sylvester Gates talks about his decision to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sylvester Gates talks about race relations in Boston and the assassinations of political figures during the 1960s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sylvester Gates talks about his academic struggles at MIT
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sylvester Gates describes the dream that helped him overcome his academic struggles
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sylvester Gates talks about his experiences at MIT - part 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sylvester Gates talks about his experiences at MIT - part 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sylvester Gates talks about his experiences at MIT - part 3
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sylvester Gates talks about balancing his studies with his personal life during college
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sylvester Gates talks about his mentors
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sylvester Gates talks about his mentors and his decision to continue his graduate studies at MIT
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sylvester Gates talks about his Ph.D. advisor, James Edward Young
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sylvester Gates talks about his graduate school experience and working with Ronald McNair
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sylvester Gates talks about his journey towards choosing his Ph.D. advisor
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sylvester Gates talks about his process for choosing the subject for his doctoral thesis
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sylvester Gates talks about the process of his defending his thesis at MIT
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sylvester Gates talks about the history of supersymmetry and his interest in the topic
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sylvester Gates talks about his work with supersymmetrical equations and their implications
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sylvester Gates talks about string theory
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sylvester Gates talks about theoretical science and mathematics
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sylvester Gates talks about human understanding of nature and the universe
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sylvester Gates talks about the public's skepticism of science and the knowledge gap
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Sylvester Gates talks about the limitations of science
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sylvester Gates talks about his post-doctoral research activities and Richard Phillips Feynman's sense of humor
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sylvester Gates talks about his professional activities
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sylvester Gates talks about Abdus Salam
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sylvester Gates talks about his work at the University of Maryland
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sylvester Gates talks about STEM education in the United States - part 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sylvester Gates talks about STEM education in the United States - part 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sylvester Gates talks about his hopes and concerns for the black community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Sylvester Gates talks about his family
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Sylvester Gates talks about his relationship with his father
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Sylvester Gates reflects on his legacy
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Sylvester Gates reflects on his life choices
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Sylvester Gates talks about his experience flying in Australia
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Sylvester Gates talks about how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Sylvester Gates describes his photographs