American physicist who won the Nobel prize for his groundbreaking particle discovery

On the morning of 11 November 1974, members of the programme selection committee at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California were assembling for one of their regular meetings. Sam Ting, from Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York, met Burton Richter, a leading experimenter at SLAC and said: “Burt, I have some interesting physics to tell you.” Richter responded immediately: “Sam, I have some interesting physics to tell you!”

Neither realised they had discovered the same fundamental particle in two entirely different experiments, nearly 5,000km apart. Their breakthrough, which some regarded as the most important discovery in the history of particle physics, was so startling and far-reaching that Richter, who has died aged 87, and Ting shared the Nobel prize in 1976, making their award one of the most rapid in its history.

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