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100th Birthday Celebration for Lyman Spitzer

October 19-20, 2013


 Lyman Spitzer Jr., the "father" of the Hubble Space Telescope and the founder of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, made profound contributions to both theoretical astrophysics and plasma physics.


In 1951, Spitzer convinced the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to try to contain and harness the nuclear burning of hydrogen at temperatures found on the sun. First approved as Project Matterhorn, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory at the James Forrestal Campus became a world leader in the quest to copy the nuclear reactions occurring within the stars, in which far more energy is produced than consumed. After shepherding its creation, Spitzer led PPPL until 1967.  His seminal 1955 text, "Physics of Fully-Ionized Gases", continues to serve as a fundamental reference work.


In theoretical physics, Spitzer is credited with founding the discipline of "interstellar matter," which concerns the gas and dust between stars from which new stars form. Early on, Spitzer suggested that the brightest stars in spiral galaxies have formed recently from the gas and dust there. He also noted the presence and importance of interstellar magnetic fields, the likelihood of a multiphase medium -- with hot, warm and cool components -- and the significance of dust grains. His numerous contributions to the field were codified in the 1968 monograph, "Diffuse Matter in Space," which became the standard text in the field.


To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Spitzer's birth, we are hosting a two day conference that will discuss the physics of the plasmas that pervade interstellar and intergalactic space, and which are at the heart of fusion reactors, from stars to stellarators.

Also happening this week on October 17-19, 2013, A Princeton University Conference for Graduate Alumni: Many Minds, Many Stripes