In 1974, together with John H. Schwarz, Scherk realised that string theory was a theory of quantum gravity. In 1978, together with Eugène Cremmer and Bernard Julia, Scherk constructed the Lagrangian and supersymmetry transformations for supergravity in eleven dimensions, which is one of the foundations of M-theory.
He died unexpectedly, and in tragic circumstances, months after the supergravity workshop at the State University of New York at Stony Brook that was held on 27–29 September 1979. The workshop proceedings were dedicated to his memory, with a statement that he, a diabetic, was trapped somewhere without his insulin and went into a diabetic coma.
The high-energy theory library of the Laboratoire de Physique Théorique at École Normale Supérieure (Paris) is dedicated in his honor. A conference in Paris, on 16–20 October 2006, celebrating 30 years of supergravity, was dedicated to Scherk.
- INSPIRE-HEP list of Joël Scherk's scientific publications: http://inspirehep.net/search?p=find+author+joel+scherk
- Supergravity Theory In Eleven Dimensions. E. Cremmer, B. Julia, and J. Scherk (Ecole Normale Superieure). LPTENS-78-10, Mar 1978. Published in Phys. Lett. B76 (1978) 409-412. Scanned version (KEK Library): [dead link]
- Supergravity. Proceedings of a Workshop at Stony Brook, 27–29 September 1979. P. Van Nieuwenhuizen, D.Z. Freedman (SUNY, Stony Brook), editors. Amsterdam, Netherlands: North-holland (1979) (341 pages).
- "30 Years of Supergravity"
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