Born in Manhattan in 1932, Sheldon knew from an early age that he would become a scientist. When he was 10 years old, he became interested in the laws of falling bodies and at the age of 15, he helped his father equip a basement chemistry lab. He was educated at Cornell University (A.B. 1954) and completed his graduate studies at Harvard University (M.A. 1955, PhD 1958).
He won a National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral fellowship, and planned to work at the Lebedev Institute in Moscow with the physicist Igor Tamm, who enthusiastically supported his proposal. However, he spent the tenure of his fellowship at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, with some time at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), waiting for a Russian visa that never came. Perhaps all was for the best, because in these years (1958-60) he discovered the SU(2) x U(1) structure of the electroweak theory.
Glashow became an assistant professor at Stanford University and then spent several years on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. In 1966, he returned to Harvard University as the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics. He has remained at Harvard, except for stays at CERN, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Marseilles.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1979 was awarded jointly to Glashow, Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg “for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current.”
In 2002, he became the Arthur Metcalf Professor of Mathematics and the Sciences at Boston University while remaining the Higgins Professor of Physics (emeritus) at Harvard University.
In 2011 he was awarded the European Physical Society Prize for particle physics.
Glashow married Joan Alexander in 1972. They have four children and seven grandchildren.