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If you like John Mather's story, you might also like:
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Murray Gell-Mann,
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Leon Lederman,
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John Mather
John Mather
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John Mather Profile

Nobel Prize in Physics

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  John Mather

The Big Bang theory proposes that the universe we know emerged from a uniformly hot and impenetrable mass of protons, electrons and radiation. But until recently, we knew very little of the first stages of the 13 billion-year process in which our cosmos took shape. In 1974, a young astrophysicist, fresh from graduate school at Berkeley, set out to fill in this gap in human knowledge.

John Mather devised a proposal for a satellite, the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), to measure the microwave background radiation in space. The scheme seemed far-fetched, but Mather persuaded NASA to undertake the mission, and was hired by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center to guide the project. In 1989, COBE was launched into space. Analysis of the data took many years more, but by 1992, Mather had found what he was looking for. With this data, we can draw a map of the universe as it existed roughly 389,000 years after the Big Bang, "a baby picture of the universe."

Mather's discovery has been hailed as "the missing link in cosmology." The Swedish Academy praised Mather for elevating cosmology to a precision science, and honored his achievement with the Nobel Prize. Today, he leads a NASA team building the most sophisticated telescope ever devised. We can only guess what wonders it may reveal.

This page last revised on Mar 13, 2014 13:04 EDT
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