The Feza Gürsey Archive originated in 1992 due to the efforts of Prof. Dr. Meral Serdaroğlu, who collected and preserved the materials in Feza Gürsey’s house in Anadolu Hisarı when the house was emptied after the death of Gürsey’s mother, Remziye Hisar. The archive has been enriched through materials gathered from the family members, close friends and colleagues of Gürsey, as well as with the speeches and texts of memorial services conducted on behalf of Feza Gürsey. An exhibition introducing the archive was held in 1992 due to the initiative of Meral Serdaroğlu and with the contributions of Cihan Saçlıoğlu, Fethiye Erbay, Mutlu Erbay, Mahir Polat, Murat Es, Binnur Polat, Aslı Aydemir, Filiz Çermen, Cem Onur Erbay and Mehmet Sinan Niyazioğlu. In addition to these figures, another name who worked heartily for the creation of the Feza Gürsey Archive was Engin Abat, one of the MA students in the Physics Department whom we lost in a plane crash in 2007. We would like to share the pleasure and honor of being involved in the production of this online exhibition, which would not have been realized without the hard work and efforts of the above-mentioned individuals and academics, especially Meral Serdaroğlu and Engin Abat, who came together thanks to the common ground of their love for Feza Gürsey.
The archive includes materials pertaining to Feza Gürsey’s everyday life, personal interests and scientific articles, as well as other materials that reveal his progress as a scientist. Gürsey’s correspondence with many local and foreign scientists also provides valuable information about the history of the discipline of physics. The archive is comprised of the following materials: personal letters, materials belonging to Gürsey family, poetry and sketch books, correspondence with 167 scientists, 173 notebooks or lab books that Gürsey kept starting from his high school years, the handwritten draft of his doctoral thesis, important articles he wrote, photo albums shedding light on different periods of his life, awards, press articles, interviews, lecture notes and sound recordings of meetings held in honor of Feza Gürsey and their transcriptions, which are preserved in the Physics Department of Boğaziçi University.
Reşit Süreyya was born in 1889 in Bor. In 1914, he graduated from Military Medicine School as a lieutenant doctor and was appointed to Baku in 1918.
In 1921, he went to Ankara and was active in Kütahya front during the War of Independence. After the war ended, he was sent to Paris in 1923 to become a specialist in radiology. Upon completing his studies in radiology, he learned about the latest developments in physics and mathematics at the University of Cambridge, UK. Reşit Süreyya gave physics lessons at Kuleli Military School between 1927 and 1935. After retiring, he continued to follow the latest developments in physics in Europe and participated in lectures given by Heisenberg and Schrödinger.
During World War II, Süreyya returned to Turkey and gave physics and mathematics lectures. He moved to the U.S. after the war and conducted research on diesel motors. He died in the U.S. in 1962. He left behind scientific works, short stories and books of poetry.
Remziye Hisar was amongst the first students to study sciences at Darülfünun at a time when only a limited number of women in Europe were able to pursue careers. She was a lover of science who pursued a Doctorate Degree in Chemistry at the Sorbonne. She was awarded the “Official Academie Award” in 1955.
In 1991 she received the TÜBİTAK award for her teaching and for the high quality of her research activities focusing on the natural resources of the country, from phosphate compounds to fruits and vegetables.
Feza Gürsey was born on April 7, 1921 in a house at Anadolu Hisarı Otağtepe, which belonged to the family of his mother Prof. Dr. Remziye Hisar. His mother Remziye met his father doctor Reşit in Baku during the years she spent there as a teacher. The couple was married in 1920 and after a while, they returned to Turkey separately. Doctor Reşit Süreyya went to Ankara during the Turkish War of Independence, while Remziye Hisar went to Adana to teach, Feza Gürsey was raised by his grandmother and aunts in an environment filled with love and special care.
Feza Gürsey attended primary school in Paris at the Jeanne d’Arc School and he even earned the respect of his teachers for his academic prestige in these early years. When his mother, Remziye, had to return to Turkey, Feza Gürsey was enrolled as a boarding student in the third grade at Galatasaray High School. Feza Gürsey graduated from the Science Department of Galatasaray High School in 1940 at the head of his class as a legendary student who impressed both his local and foreign teachers. He decided to dedicate his life to physics in his high school years.
Ambassador Özer F. Tevs, who was a classmate of Feza Gürsey at Galatasaray High School speaks of Feza Gürsey, who left quite an impression on his teachers by the time he had graduated from the Science Department of the school, as follows:
“39 Feza Gürsey was the student who impressed all the students of his time as well as local and foreign teachers of the school. When we were in the final year of middle school, during evening study hours, we would find Feza reading Proust’s philosophical stories named In Search of Lost Time or examining Cézanne’s reproductions. Our French teachers would call him into the teacher lounge during the breaks to chat with him.”
Upon graduating from Galatasaray High School, Feza Gürsey attended İstanbul University’s Science Faculty and received his undergraduate degree in 1944 from the Physics-Mathematics Department. As the curriculum at Science Department was not challenging enough, in his own words, “he set to talk about tasavvuf, love, poetry and art with Asaf Halet Çelebi at küllük coffeehouse.” However, he thought, “I have to learn physics in spite of everything,” and pursued science instead of putting on “the dervish cloak over the researcher cloak” and graduated at the head of his class.
Feza Gürsey relates his studies in a six-page letter addressed to his mother, dating from 21 November 1947:
“I am not hanging out at parties as you assume, dear mother. I work day and night . . . I have been holding on to the things that I want to work on for two years with all my strength: general field theory and relations between electromagnetic meson and electron fields. Dirac, Born, Schrödinger, Pauli and his colleagues work expansively on this subject. If I cannot find a good method by the end of this year, I will give in to practical matters. Nowadays I am trying to get these fundamental equations into quaternion formalism. Meanwhile, my supervisor thinks that while the tensor and spinner calculations are still there, it is unnecessary and priggish to focus on quaternions. What I am currently working on cannot go beyond formalism, but I hope that at least if the Cambridge Philosophical Society accepts me, I can show my supervisor that I am not wasting all of my time."
Feza Gürsey received a letter asking him to return home to İstanbul after practicing timekeeping for two months at the Greenwich Observatory, since he was to be appointed to run the quartz clocks at the Kandilli Observatory at the end of 1951. Shortly after he returned to İstanbul, he was appointed as an assistant at İstanbul University in the Applied Mathematics Department. In 1952, while he was completing his military service, he prepared his associate professor thesis entitled "Classical and Wave Mechanics of Electrons with Spin." In 1954 he was appointed as Associate Professor of Mathematics at İstanbul University.
In 1951, when he returned to Turkey, while he was an assistant in İstanbul University, Feza Gürsey met Suha Pamir who was also an assistant in the Physics Department whom he would share his love of science and art all through his life. Pamir received her B.S. Degree in Physics from the Faculty of Science at İstanbul University in 1945 and then started her graduate studies in the General Physics Department. She received her doctoral degree in 1955. In 1954, Yusuf, Suha and Feza’s only child, was born. Yusuf Gürsey became a physicist like his parents. He received a physics PhD from Brown University and became an associate professor at the Middle East Technical University. He currently lives in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
In 1950s, in order to “let the sunshine into Turkey,” Feza Gürsey, Fikret Kortel and Cahit Arf organized seminars and gave physics lessons to disseminate and work on new fields of knowledge. Feza Gürsey's articles entitled "Relativistic Field Equations," "The Relationship between the Classical Spinning Electron and the Dirac Equation,” "Quaternions; Application to Relativity," and "Conformal Group and Application to Spinor Equations" were published in this period. The 1952 International Mechanics Conference, of which Gürsey was the secretary, was an important event and during the Conference, Feza Gürsey met with Prof. Dr. Erdal İnönü, Abdus Salam and Behram Kurşunoğlu.
In 1957 Feza Gürsey went to the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the U.S. with his family thanks to a scholarship awarded by the Atomic Energy Commission. There, Gürsey conducted research with Prof. Wolfgang Pauli, who paid special attention to Gürsey, which brought him recognition from other physicists. By 1961, the work he had conducted at Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley and Brookhaven attracted the attention of other famous physicists as well.
Feza Gürsey’s breakthrough article on Pauli Transformation gave him worldwide acclaim for the first time. Pauli refers to this interesting article in a letter written in 1958 to Landau (the famous Russian theoretical physicist). Pauli is a Nobel Laureate of Physics and in his work as a theoretical physicist, he discovered the Pauli Exclusion Principle of Quantum Mechanics and proposed the existence of the neutrino decades before its experimental discovery. Pauli asked Feza Gürsey to come to Zurich so that they could work together. However, Pauli's untimely death in 1958 forestalled this cooperation. In a letter written by Pauli to Feza Gürsey in 1958, he confirms a rumor that many of us had heard though we doubted its validity. Pauli wrote the following to Feza Gürsey: "I think I can recommend you to the institute [The Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton (IAS)], but I am not sure if I can recommend the institute to you.”
Feza Gürsey entered into a physics environment at Brookhaven National Laboratory where researchers understood quantum electrodynamics, and were working towards reaching an understanding of strong and weak interactions. He completed and published the calculations his old friend, Freeman Dyson, had outlined in no time. Dyson was quite surprised by Gürsey's rapid progress.
In 1964, Feza Gürsey and Luigi Radicati combined the SU(3) symmetry with the non-relativistic spin of the quarks and proposed the SU(6) symmetry. SU(6) symmetry led to the concepts of quark reality, quark dynamics, spin and inner space quantum numbers charges. After the discovery of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) and introduction of “color” as a new degree of freedom for each quark, the success of experimental results of SU(6) symmetry was understood.
Feza Gürsey returned to Turkey in 1961 as a famous physicist. Prof. Erdal İnönü's insistence and endeavors proved fruitful, as Feza Gürsey left İstanbul University and started to work as a professor at the newly established Middle East Technical University (METU) Theoretical Physics Department. During his short-term leaves from METU, he went to Princeton and Yale Universities to follow the cutting-edge research conducted in the physics at these universities. In those years, students, assistants, professors from METU and other physics departments had a chance to meet and listen to famous physicists, including those with Nobel prizes, who were invited by Feza Gürsey to METU.
Feza Gürsey and Fikret Kortel organized a summer school at Boğaziçi University in 1962. This summer school is the first of the series of “Group Theoretical Concepts and Methods in Elementary Particle Physics.” Every alternate year the conferences have provided the setting for the presentation of the “Wigner Medal.” The lectures given at this summer school did not lose their significance in physics for decades and it is considered to be a very important meeting in the history of group theoretical concepts and methods. Wigner, one of the participants in the conference was a Nobel Laureate, while Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam received a Nobel Prize after the conference.
At the TÜBİTAK Science Award ceremony, Feza Gürsey gave a speech entitled "A New World: High Energy Physics." He ended his fluent, evocative and beautiful speech on what high energy physics is and why it should be supported with the following lines:
"In High Energy Physics, even if we delete all kinds of benefits and importance with a stroke of a pen, there still remains its main essence: its beauty… A handful of people, like old dervishes, wonder about the limits of nature. As the poet Muhyiddin Abdal said;
“I am Muhyiddin a dervish
Have followed the right path
Eighteen thousand realms
I have seen in a single droplet…”
In 1974, Feza Gürsey's tenure as a professor at the Yale University Physics Department became permanent. Feza Gürsey’s leave of absence without pay was not signed by the Rector and he was required to leave METU. Gürsey explains his reason for leaving METU at the “Science Service and Honor Award” given by Prof. Dr. Mustafa Parlar Educational and Research Foundation as follows:
"The first reason is that I frequently asked for leave without pay to work at science centers abroad and I include my students in this scientific exchange. The second reason is that my high-level research, which is not found suitable for the level and needs of Turkey to the extent that I set a harmful example to the youth . . . "
After Feza Gürsey received the Oppenheimer Prize, Burhan Felek wrote a column titled “Let’s Take Pride in This” in the Milliyet newspaper. In his column, Felek, who jokingly writes that a lady professor called Feza Gürsey found a theory in the field of theoretical physics, continues as such:
“We were so proud, we boasted. Of course, we are delighted when our wrestler wins. But this is certainly an emotional joy. The other one, on the other hand, is a pride that we feel due to an accomplishment of our child who was appreciated because of the contribution of a nation to science and civilization. We take pride in this everywhere. We cannot have enough pride in having a Turkish name, in fact, a female scientist’s name, in the international accomplishment lists.
However, since we do not know how to take pride in or feel regret properly, such news comes up in your newspaper. I wish the newspapers had published a photo of this lady professor on the front page and, put a title that says, “We are Proud of our Daughter”, written her name and showed her accomplishments to the world.”
Following that, Feza Gürsey replies Burhan Felek with a letter written in a fun manner on March 21, 1977:
“Dear Burhan Felek,
I have always followed your jokes with joy and admiration. My friends sent the columns you kindly wrote about me. As always, I read them with joy. Although there were minor mistakes, they were all for my benefit. Why should I be sorry? Your text presents me, much more attractive, younger, more beneficial and significant than I actually am. How dare I complain?
First: The point about my sex. I wish I was a cute secretary-professor and I could honor Turkish womanhood twice. In fact, I am a little hunchbacked person, wearing glasses, looking like a dervish. Would you still ask a photo from me?
Second: My surname is not Gürsoy but Gürsey. Undoubtedly, Gürsoy sounds more impressive than Gürsey.
The third one is about my age: In your second column, you described me as being “precious young”. I worked as a professor in Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul Science Faculty and METU, in Ankara for many years. I will turn 56 soon, while reading your columns, I wanted to say “keep saying it even if it is not true …”
Yale University Head of Department Dr. Vernon Hughes narrates Feza Gürsey's appointment procedure at Yale University:
"I was the president of the Yale Physics Department in the first half of the sixties. Professor Gregory Breit, who was the most prominent person in the theoretical physics, was making a special effort to strengthen theoretical physics in Yale because he would retire in 1967 . . . Gregory Breit strongly supported the appointment of Feza and as many old people would agree it was not a small matter. Recently I have reread the letters of recommendation from Freeman Dyson, Geoffrey Chew, Gian Carlo Wick, Merf Goldberger, Bob Serber, Bram Pais, T.D. Lee, Luigi Radicatti, Eugene Wigner and John Wheeler for the appointment of Feza in 1966-67. The open fascination these great physicists had for Feza in these letters was extraordinary. Even then the breadth of his contributions was extraordinary and included statistical mechanics, field theory, special and general relativity, group theory and particle physics."
"Strings and Symmetries" Gürsey Commemoration Conference Speeches, 1994
Feza Gürsey was deemed worthy of many awards during his science career. Among these awards were the TÜBİTAK Science Award in 1969, the J.R. Oppenheimer Memorial Prize he won together with S. Glashow, the Einstein Medal given to him in 1979, the College de France Medal he received in 1981 and the “Commendatore Medal” he received in 1984, which is issued by the Republic of Italy. Gürsey has also been selected to join many academic societies and acted as a member of these institutions, including the Turkish Physics Society, American Physical Society, Third World Science Academy, Connecticut Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Science and Literature. The international fame he had acquired did not render Feza Gürsey unreachable. On the contrary, he and his wife Suha Gürsey opened their homes not only to their students and colleagues but to all, everywhere they went. Music, literature, philology, art, history and much more were discussed in their house, which is always mentioned in the memoires of Gürsey's family.
After retiring in 1991, Feza Gürsey accepted the invitation of Boğaziçi University and came to İstanbul. He wanted to continue working on the symmetries of superstring theories and conformal field theories. Unfortunately, his recently diagnosed cancer did not allow him to do so. On April 13, 1992, Feza Gürsey passed away. While he was being treated at the Yale University Hospital, his illness spread suddenly, due to various misfortunes and complications. The funeral service was held in İstanbul, transportation sponsored by TÜBİTAK. Feza Gürsey was put to rest in the family cemetery following a ceremony in Anadolu Hisarı attended by many people who knew him.
His friends and colleagues talk about Feza Gürsey after his death.
Theoretical physicist Prof. Dr. Kamesh Wali, who works on elementary particles and Grand Unification:
“There is a secret society whose activities transcend all limits of space and time and Feza is one of its members. It is the ideal community of geniuses, who weave and compose the fabric of our culture.”
Syracuse University, USA
“Strings and Symmetries” Gürsey Commemoration Conference Speeches, 1994
Prof. Dr. Maurice Goldhaber, who is a renowned experimental physicist who was at the forefront of various experiments in Chadwick Laboratory in the 1930s to Super-Kamiokande, where neutrino experiments were conducted in recent years, and who worked as the director of Brookhaven Laboratory for many years, said the following:
“There are two extreme type of scientists, with a broad spectrum in between: you might call the one extreme the “Bloodhound” who follows every clue from experiment as well as theoretical developments till he gets a coherent picture, the other extreme you might call the “Olympian” who is guided by general principles to arrive at theories of predictive value. Of course, no one is pure example of one or the other extreme, but if anyone comes close to the Olympian it is Feza.”
Brookhaven National Laboratory, USA
Symmetries in Particle Physics, Ed. I. Bars, A. Chodos,
C.H. Tze, Plenum Press, New York, 1984
Nobel physicist Schwinger's student, Prof. Dr. Charles M. Sommerfield, who became famous with his calculations of quantum electrodynamics is a colleague of Feza Gürsey at Yale University, he spoke of him as follows:
"I met Feza in 1957 when he came with Pauli to Berkeley. He was a bare haired young man. He played an important role in both formulating and demolishing the Heisenberg’s non-linear field theory... He was in general a great synthesizer. In the annual reports of the department he connected even the unrelated researches so well with a firm logical structure that you thought we had solved all the problems of the universe together. He added spice to the faculty meetings. He was also the focal point of the lunches. He was a good speaker as well as a good listener."
Yale University, USA
“Strings and Symmetries” Gürsey Commemoration Conference Speeches, 1994
Prof. Dr. Freeman Dyson, an eminent theoretical physicist and mathematician, in his talk to celebrate Feza’s sixtieth birthday, lists the unfashionable pursuits of Feza as.
“Conformal Group, De Sitter Group, Classical Spinning Electron, SU(6), Machian Relativity, Kerr Geometry, Quaternions, Octonions and Exceptional Lie Groups.
The reason why I think it is important to talk about unfashionable pursuits because people like Feza are so uncommon. The list of things Feza has done in his life, with no claim to completeness have a common thread, that in the short run they may not be terribly relevant, but in the long run they are. That is what characterizes Feza.”
Institute for Advanced Study, Pinceton USA
Symetries in Particle Physics, Ed. I. Bars, A. Chodos,
C.H. Tze, Plenum Press, New York, 1984
Professor Oppenheimer Prize-winner theoretical physicist Dr. Yoichiro Nambu, who works on field theory and particle physics, and who first revealed the existence of gluons and the three "color" copies of quarks that spontaneously distort symmetry in strong interactions praised Gürsey’s character:
“Returning to Feza’s personal side, we know how he has been to his friends and colleagues around him. He has listened carefully and quietly, and he has spoken with modesty and persuasion. He has always been available. Everybody has been welcome at any time at his home, Feza and Suha playing most gracious hosts. It has been a unique experience.
All good things have come to an end. Yet, Feza’s legacy will live on forever among his friends and among his fellow physicists all over the world. This should be our consolation."
Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, USA
Symmetries in Particle Physics, Ed. I. Bars,A. Chodos,
C.H. Tze, Plenum Press, New York, 1984