Vassar College

Nobel Prize-winning physicist who proved science of "Big Bang" theory to deliver Matthew Vassar Lecture

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY — There are very few people who can claim to have redefined the popular conception of the universe. Dr. John C. Mather of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is one of them.

Mather, whose work helped to popularize the Big Bang theory of creation, was the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with his partner George F. Smoot. In 2007, Mather was listed among Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in The World." On Monday, October 29 at 5:00 pm, Mather will deliver the Matthew Vassar Lecture "Big Bang, Microwave Radiation" in Vassar's Sanders Physics building, Room 207. This lecture is free and open to the public.

Mather and Smoot looked at data from NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), which studied the pattern of radiation stemming from the time when atoms could first form, about 300,000 years after the universe was formed. Coordinating a team of more than 1,000 researchers and engineers, he led an investigation that revealed the blackbody form of the microwave background radiation measured by COBE.

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 tiny fluctuations of matter in the early universe, only 300,000 years 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. The team also found radiation with a spectrum that agrees exactly with the theoretical prediction, confirming the Big Bang theory that the universe began as an explosive event and has been expanding and cooling ever since.

ABOUT DR. JOHN C. MATHER

After graduating with highest honors from Swarthmore College in 1968, Dr. John C. Mather went on to earn his PhD in physics at the University of California, Berkeley with a perfect grade point average.

As a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer (1974-76), and went to the Goddard Space Flight Center to be the Study Scientist (1976-88), Project Scientist (1988-98), and also the Principal Investigator for the Far IR Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on COBE.

Mather is currently a Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. His research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. As Senior Project Scientist (1995-present) for the James Webb Space Telescope, he leads the science team, and represents scientific interests within the project management. He has served on advisory and working groups for the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.

This lecture is hosted by the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact Campus Activities, (845) 437–5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Photograph of Josh Swiller
John Mather

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