The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences named David J. Gross of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, H. David Politzer of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge as joint winners.
The academy said in a release the men made an important theoretical discovery concerning the "strong force" that is dominant in the atomic nucleus, acting between the quarks inside the proton and the neutron.
This discovery was expressed in 1973 in a mathematical framework that led to a completely new theory, quantum chromodynamics, or QCD.
The $1.35 million prize will be shared equally among the laureates when it is presented in Stockholm Dec. 10, the anniversary of industrialist Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.