December 1, 2006
The Hertz Foundation is proud to congratulate Dr. John Mather (Fellow 1970-74) who shared the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics with Dr. George F. Smoot of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for their collaborative work on understanding the Big Bang.
Mather and Smoot analyzed data from NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) which studied the pattern of radiation from the first few instants after the universe was formed. In 1992 , the COBE team announced that they had mapped the primordial hot and cold spots in the cosmic microwave background radiation. These spots are related to the gravitational field in the early universe, only instants after the Big Bang, and are the seeds for the giant clusters of galaxies that stretch hundreds of millions of light years across the universe.*
Dr. John C. Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. His research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. As an NRC postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (New York City), he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer (74-76), and came to GSFC to be the Study Scientist (76-88), Project Scientist (88-98), and the Principal Investigator for the Far IR Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on COBE. He demonstrated that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million, confirming the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy. As Senior Project Scientist (95-present) for the James Webb Space Telescope, he leads the science team, and represents scientific interests within the project management. He is the recipient of many awards, including the John C. Lindsay memorial Award, National Air and Space Museum Trophy, AIAA Space Science Award, Aviation Week and Space Technology Laurels for Space/Missiles, Dannie Heinemann Prize for Astrophysics, Rumford Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics and membersip in the National Academy of Sciences. Most recently the Nobel Prize in Physics (2006) with George Smoot, for the COBE work.
Of our distinguished Fellows, Dr. Mather is the Hertz Foundation's second Nobel Prize winner. Dr. Carl E. Wieman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001 and was named the U.S. Professor of the Year in 2004.