Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Location of death: Ithaca, NY
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Pleasant Grove Cemetery, Ithaca, NY
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Certain that oil is not a fossil fuel
As an astronomer and physicist, Thomas Gold has grown famous over the years for a variety of bold theories that flout conventional wisdom. His most recent claim garnering skeptical attention is the theory of the The Deep Hot Biosphere (1999) which claims that petroleum is not the decayed remains of decayed biological material, but is rather a primordial hydrocarbon which exists in even greater abundance at deeper levels, within the Earth's mantle.
Gold accounts for the existence of biologic material within this hydrocarbon by positing the existence of bacteria-like organisms which can thrive under extreme conditions and feed off of hydrocarbons. Although mainstream geologists continue to scoff, biologists are now studying similar organisms (immune to extreme temperatures) which were discovered during the drilling of super deep wells and mines.
Earlier controversies have included his intepretation of pulsars, as emissions from neutron stars with strong magnetic fields (later accepted as wholly accurate), and his postulation -- along with Bondi and Hoyle -- of Steady State theory (once widely accepted but now largely rejected in favor of the Big Bang theory).
Although popular accounts often attribute Gold with falsely predicting that Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would find the lunar surface coated in a thick layer of dust, which could cause them to sink over their heads, he denies ever making such a claim, arguing his views were misrepresented in the press.
Gold's theory of the deep hot biosphere holds important ramifications for the possibility of life on other planets, including seemingly inhospitable planets within our own solar system. He was Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at Cornell University and founded (and for 20 years was director of) the Cornell Center for Radiophysics and Space Research. Gold is credited with 280 publications in various fields of science, including cosmology, mechanism of mammalian hearing, nature of pulsars as rotating neutron stars, aspects of solar system research, origin of planetary hydrocarbons.
Father: Max Gold
Mother: Josefine Martin
Wife: Merle Eleanor Tuberg (m. 1947, div., three daughters)
Wife: Carvel Lee Beyer (m. 1972, one daughter)
University: Zuoz College, Switzerland
University: PhD, Trinity College, Cambridge University
Professor: John L. Wetherill Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University
Professor: Robert Wheeler Willson Professor of Applied Astronomy, Harvard University
Professor: Lecturer in advanced physics, Cambridge University
Administrator: Director, Cornell Center for Radiophysics and Space Research, Cornell University
Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal 1985 (with Stephen Hawking)
Royal Society Fellow
American Philosophical Society
American Geophysical Union Fellow
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
National Academy of Sciences
Jewish Ancestry Paternal side
Author of books:
The Deep Hot Biosphere (1999, nonfiction)
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