David Gross received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1962. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1966 then spent three years as Junior Fellow at Harvard University. In 1973 he was promoted to Professor at Princeton University and in 1986, named Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics there. He served as Director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at the University of California, Santa Barbara from 1997 to 2012 and is presently a Permanent Member at the KITP where he holds the Chancellor's Chair Professor in Theoretical Physics.
He has been a central figure in particle physics and string theory. In 1973, his discovery, with his student Frank Wilczek, of asymptotic freedom—the primary feature of non-Abelian gauge theories—led Gross and Wilczek to the formulation of Quantum Chromodynamics, the theory of the strong nuclear force. Asymptotic freedom is a phenomenon where the nuclear force weakens at short distances, which explains why experiments at very high energy can be understood as if nuclear particles are made of non-interacting quarks. The flip side of asymptotic freedom is that the force between quarks grows stronger as one tries to separate them. This is the reason why the nucleus of an atom can never be broken into its quark constituents.
QCD completed the Standard Model, which details the three basic forces of particle physics--the electromagnetic force, the weak force, and the strong force. Gross was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics, with Politzer and Wilczek, for this discovery.
He has also made seminal contributions to the theory of Superstrings, a burgeoning enterprise that brings gravity into the quantum framework. With collaborators, he originated the "Heterotic String Theory," the prime candidate for a unified theory of all the forces of nature. He continues to do research in this field at the KITP, a world center of physics.
His awards include the Sakurai Prize, MacArthur Prize, Dirac Medal, Oscar Klein Medal, Harvey Prize, the EPS Particle Physics Prize, the Grande Médaille d’Or, the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004, and the Medal of Honor of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna.
He holds honorary degrees from the US, Britain, France, Israel, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, China, the Philippines and Cambodia. His memberships includes the US National Academy of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, l'Academie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences, the Indian Academy of Science, the Chinese Academy of Science, the Russian Academy of Sciences and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS).
In 2016, he began a four-year term in the Presidential Line of the American Physical Society, where he is currently past President.