I was doing some reading on stellar structure, and I noticed the phrase "the standard solar model" used to describe the structure of the Sun, and stars in general. It reminded me of the Standard Model of particle physics. Also, the $\Lambda$-CDM model is sometimes referred to as "the standard model of cosmology." There are other uses of the phrase.

Who first used the phrase "the standard model" to describe a theory? Was it first applied to the Standard Model of particle physics, or was it used somewhere else?

  • $\begingroup$ After reading this question I started wondering about the origins of other generic terms like "classical theory" or "canonical representation". According to Wikipedia, "classical mechanics" was only coined at the beginning of 20th century, but it doesn't say by whom or gives any references. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Apr 5, 2015 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ There is a related thread on History SE history.stackexchange.com/questions/9299/… "The term "standard model" was faddish in several different scientific contexts in the 1960s and 1970s, however, I think the reason it became adopted permanently in physics was the influence of the use of the term in astronomy. In astronomy the model of the evolution of the universe which today we know as the "Big Bang Theory", was frequently referred to as the "standard model"... " $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Apr 28, 2015 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ No idea if it's related but the term was very popular for guitars in the 50s. There is also a standard model in cryptography, dating from around the same time too. $\endgroup$
    – VicAche
    Apr 30, 2015 at 23:57

2 Answers 2


Its first appearance in particle physics was in Pais, A., and S. B. Treiman (1975), "How Many Charm Quantum Numbers are There?" Physical Review Letters 35, no. 23, p. 1556. The point was to stop repeating "what we all agree on, the SSB gauge theory of SU(2)xU(1) of...", dropping the names of the contributors, an increasing list that would then quickly slip off to "me too / him too" bibliographical tangents. Worse yet, people would champion their favorite contributors with emphasizing different aspects of the model, declaring them as more conceptually crucial. It was thus a brilliant argument stopper, adopted very quickly.

To my knowledge, the name was spread to cosmology by particle cosmologists in the 1980s.

I am not, however, familiar with its usage in other, more remote fields.


The word 'standard' has been long in use in mathematics and science as a reference point. In fact, other terms are used as synonyms such as 'normal' or 'characteristic' and even 'universal'.

Wikipedia points out that the term 'standard model' was a coinage by Abraham Pais and Sam Treiman in 1975 published in Physical Review.

It took some time for the term to migrate into standard usage (pun intended) as I wasn't aware of it studying physics at college in the late eighties although I had heard of the Glashow-Salam-Weinberg theory.


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