Luciano Girardello 1937–2022

15 February 2022

Italian theoretical physicist Luciano Girardello passed away in January, aged 84. He made important contributions to quantum field theory, supersymmetry and supergravity, and will always be remembered by friends and colleagues for his irony, vision and great humanity.

Born on 10 September 1937, Luciano graduated at the University of Milano. After a first postdoctoral fellowship at Boulder, Colorado, he worked at many institutions across the world, including Harvard University, the École normale supérieure in Paris and CERN. Upon his return to Italy, he became professor at the University of Milano, where he spent several years, and in 2000 he moved to the new University of Milano-Bicocca, contributing to the creation of its physics department, where he remained for the rest of his career.

Luciano was one of the first to study the mechanisms of supersymmetry breaking, rooting the theory in reality

Luciano was interested in all aspects of fundamental physics, from quantum field theory to gravity, and made seminal contributions to the foundations of supersymmetry and supergravity in their early days. In a fruitful collaboration with other pioneers of the subjects, including Eugène Cremmer, Sergio Ferrara and Antoine Van Proeyen, he investigated the coupling of matter in supergravity, which is fundamental for the experimental search for supersymmetry, the modern theory of gravitation and the effective theories of string compactifications. Luciano was one of the first to study the mechanisms of supersymmetry breaking, rooting the theory in reality. In the final part of his career, he applied the AdS/CFT correspondence, or gauge/gravity duality, to the understanding of fundamental problems in quantum field theory. He was not interested in theoretical speculations or mathematical tricks but rather in understanding the nature of things and in the cross-fertilisation of fields and ideas. Many of his contributions to physics were born in the corridors of the CERN theory division, in long days and endless nights spent with friends and collaborators.

Luciano’s wide and original lectures on different topics at the universities of Milano and Milano-Bicocca inspired students for more than 30 years. His deep thoughts, vision and culture also informed and educated many generations of talented young physicists who are now active in the international arena. Greatly admired as a physicist, he will be remembered by those who had the good fortune to know him well as a great human being, a cultivated and refined person, and an old-time gentleman.

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