Sergio Ferrara (born 2 May 1945) is an Italian physicist working on theoretical physics of elementary particles and mathematical physics. He is renowned for the discovery of theories introducing supersymmetry as a symmetry of elementary particles (super-Yang–Mills theories, together with Bruno Zumino[1]) and of supergravity, the first significant extension of Einstein's general relativity, based on the principle of "local supersymmetry" (together with Daniel Z. Freedman, and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen[2]). He is an emeritus staff member at CERN and a professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles.


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Sergio Ferrara was born on 2 May 1945 in Rome, Italy. He graduated from the University of Rome, obtaining in 1968 the Laurea Degree (the highest Degree that was awarded in Italy at the time). Since then he has worked as a CNEN and INFN researcher at the Frascati National Laboratories; as a CNRS Visiting Scientist at the Laboratoire de Physique Théorique, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, and at the Theory Division at CERN, Geneva. In 1980 he was nominated Full Professor of theoretical physics in Italy. He became a staff member of the Theory Division at CERN in 1981. In 1985, he became a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Since 1986 he has been a senior staff member of the Physics Department at CERN. During the years 2010-2014 he has been a guest professor at CERN as Principal Investigator of the European Research Council Advanced Grant SUPERFIELDS.[3] He is currently a senior staff member, emeritus, at CERN.

Conformal field theory

In 1971–1975, Sergio Ferrara did pioneering work on conformal field theory and the conformal bootstrap. In a series of papers written in collaboration with Raoul Gatto, Aurelio Grillo and Giorgio Parisi, he studied constraints imposed by conformal symmetry on the operator dimensions, the form of the correlation functions, the operator product expansion, and the conformal partial wave expansion for the four-point correlation functions of the theory.[4] This work, together with the similar work by Alexander Polyakov, laid the foundations of Conformal Field Theory.

Supersymmetric Yang-Mills theory

In 1974, with Bruno Zumino, he formulated supersymmetric gauge theories, which opened the way to building supersymmetric extensions of the Standard Model of particle physics and exploring their consequences. This result was obtained independently by Abdus Salam and James Strathdee.


In 1976, Sergio Ferrara, Daniel Z. Freedman, and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen discovered supergravity at Stony Brook University in New York, specifically by describing pure 4D N = 1 supergravity. It was initially proposed as a four-dimensional theory. The theory of supergravity generalizes Einstein's general theory of relativity by incorporating the principles of supersymmetry. In 1982 Sergio together with E. Cremmer, L. Girardello, and A. Van Proeyen were the first to derived the full action of 4D N = 1 supergravity.[5][6]In 2019 the three were awarded a special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics of $3 million[7] for the discovery.

Black hole attractors

In 1995, with Renata Kallosh and Andrew Strominger, he formulated the theory of Black Hole attractors, a dynamical mechanism which determines the Bekenstein–Hawking entropy for extremal black holes in terms of their charges.[citation needed]


"For contributions to Conformal Field Theory and to the discovery of Supergravity"
"For their discovery of supergravity theory in 1976 and their major contributions in the subsequent developments of the theory. Their discovery led to an explosion of interest in quantum gravity and it transformed the subject, playing a significant role in very important developments in string theory as well as Kaluza-Klein theory"
"For constructing supergravity, the first supersymmetric extension of Einstein's theory of general relativity, and for their central role in its subsequent development."
"He honoured Italian physics with his discoveries, substantially contributing to the discoveries leading to the development of modern gravity theories. For his contribution to the discovery of supergravity theory."
"For his relevant contributions to supergravity models, their matter couplings and their implications for black hole physics, such as the attractor mechanism"
"For services in Theoretical Physics."
"For the invention of Supergravity, in which quantum variables are part of the description of the geometry of space time”
"For his contribution to fundamental aspects of supersymmetry that has been a very important achievement for our understanding of modern supergravity theories"


  1. ^ Ferrara, S.; Zumino, B. (1974). "Supergauge invariant Yang-Mills theories". Nuclear Physics B. 79 (3): 413–421. doi:10.1016/0550-3213(74)90559-8.
  2. ^ Freedman, Daniel Z.; van Nieuwenhuizen, P.; Ferrara, S. (1976-06-15). "Progress toward a theory of supergravity". Physical Review D. 13 (12): 3214–3218. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.13.3214. ISSN 0556-2821.
  3. ^ "Superfields".
  4. ^ Ferrara, S; Grillo, A.F; Gatto, R (1973). "Tensor representations of conformal algebra and conformally covariant operator product expansion". Annals of Physics. 76 (1): 161–188. doi:10.1016/0003-4916(73)90446-6.
  5. ^ Cremmer, E.; Ferrara, S.; Girardello, L.; Van Proeyen, A. (1983). "Yang-Mills theories with local supersymmetry: Lagrangian, transformation laws and super-Higgs effect". Nuclear Physics B. 212 (3): 413–442. doi:10.1016/0550-3213(83)90679-X.
  6. ^ Cremmer, E.; Ferrara, S.; Girardello, L.; Van Proeyen, A. (1982). "Coupling supersymmetric Yang-Mills theories to supergravity". Physics Letters B. 116 (4): 231–237. doi:10.1016/0370-2693(82)90332-X.
  7. ^ "Supergravity scientists share $3M US Breakthrough Prize". CBC News.
  8. ^ "People: ICTP Trieste Dirac medallists get together". CERN Courier. 41 (1): 36. January 2001.
  9. ^ "Faces and places: APS honours particle physicists". CERN Courier. 46 (5): 42. June 2006.
  10. ^ "Sergio Ferrara". CERN Bulletin. 28-29/2009. 6 July 2009.