Princeton University

Princeton Weekly Bulletin   October 16, 2006, Vol. 96, No. 6   prev   next   current

  • PWB logo
  • The Bulletin is published weekly during the academic year, except during University breaks and exam weeks, by the Office of Communications. Second class postage paid at Princeton. Postmaster: Send address changes to Princeton Weekly Bulletin, Office of Communications, Princeton University, 22 Chambers St., Suite 201, Princeton, NJ 08542. Permission is given to adapt, reprint or excerpt material from the Bulletin for use in other media.
  • Subscriptions. The Bulletin is distributed free to faculty, staff and students. Others may subscribe to the Bulletin for $30 for the 2006-07 academic year (half price for current Princeton parents and people over 65). Send a check to Office of Communications, Princeton University, 22 Chambers St., Suite 201, Princeton, NJ 08542.
  • Deadlines. In general, the copy deadline for each issue is the Friday 10 days in advance of the Monday cover date. The deadline for the Bulletin that covers
    Nov. 6-12 is Friday, Oct. 27. A complete publication schedule is available at pr/ pwb/ deadlines.html; or by calling (609) 258-3601.
  • Editor: Ruth Stevens

    Calendar editor: Carolyn Geller

    Staff writers: Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, Eric Quiñones

    Contributing writers: Chad Boutin, Cass Cliatt, Christine Lian, Jerry Price, Steven Schultz

    Photographers: Denise Applewhite, John Jameson

    Design: Maggie Westergaard

    Web edition: Mahlon Lovett

  • PU shield

Nobel awarded to leaders of the COBE science team

Princeton NJ — This year’s Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Oct. 3 to John Mather and George Smoot, two leaders of the Cosmic Microwave Background Explorer (COBE) satellite science team. David Wilkinson of Princeton’s physics department, who died in 2002, was one of COBE’s originators and one of the key scientists who guided the project through several scientific discoveries that are now cornerstones of physical cosmology.


David Wilkinson

Mather, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and Smoot, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for research that supports the “big bang” model of the universe’s formation. Their findings were based on measurements done with the COBE satellite.

In 1974 Wilkinson was one of a group of scientists who conceived COBE to study properties of the fossil radiation emanating from the edge of the observable universe. The satellite was launched in 1989, and in 1990 the science team announced its observations on the temperature of the afterglow of the big bang. Most view the measurement as incontrovertible evidence for the big bang theory of the universe.

The team reported the discovery of the anisotropy, or spatial variations, in this fossil radiation in 1992. These ripples offer a picture of the early universe that shows how the galaxies came into being.

In 2001, NASA launched a second satellite, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, which in 2003 confirmed with high precision the COBE anisotropy measurements. The probe was posthumously named after Wilkinson, its originator.

The COBE team also received the Peter Gruber Foundation’s Cosmology Prize this August. The Gruber prize, which recognizes contributions to fundamental advances in the field of cosmology, was presented at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Prague. Wilkinson’s widow, Eunice Wilkinson, represented him at the ceremony.

Wilkinson joined the Princeton faculty in 1963 and soon thereafter began his work on the fossil radiation. He transferred to emeritus status in 2002, shortly before dying of cancer at age 67.

“Dave was a pioneer in experimental cosmology and a dedicated teacher,” said Dan Marlow, chair of Princeton’s physics department. “The techniques he developed for measuring both the absolute temperature and anisotropy of the cosmic background radiation, and the students he taught, have had an enormous impact on cosmology.”


© 2006 The Trustees of Princeton University
University Operator: 609-258-3000