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Adam G. Riess

AKA Adam Guy Riess

Born: 1969
Birthplace: Washington, DC

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Astronomer, Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Accelerating expansion of the universe

In graduate school, astrophysicist Adam G. Riess developed a new technique to measure the distance to far-away galaxies. Riess then led the study for the High-Z Supernova Search Team, which found startling evidence that even 14 billion years after the big bang, the expansion of the universe is still accelerating.

This finding was so unexpected that Riess and his co-worker Brian P. Schmidt spent several days checking and re-checking their calculations, searching for a mistake, before nervously submitting their findings for peer review in 1998. Eventually, a vacuum energy called the cosmological constant — originally proposed in 1917 by Albert Einstein, who later rejected the notion — has became the accepted explanation for this acceleration that continues pushing the universe apart.

Riess and Schmidt shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics, along with Saul Perlmutter, who made essentially the same discovery while working independently.

Father: Michael Riess (frozen foods distributor, b. 1931, d. 2007)
Mother: Doris Riess (psychologist)
Sister: Gail Michele Riess (physician)
Wife: Nancy Joy Schondorf (m. 10-Jan-1998)

    High School: Watchung Hills Regional High School, Warren, NJ (1988)
    University: BS Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1992)
    University: MA Astrophysics, Harvard University (1994)
    University: PhD Astrophysics, Harvard University (1996)
    Fellow: Astrophysics, University of California at Berkeley (1996-99)
    Scholar: Ass't Astronomer, Space Telescope Science Institute, Johns Hopkins University (1999-2004)
    Scholar: Astronomer, Space Telescope Science Institute, Johns Hopkins University (1999-2004)
    Professor: Astronomy and Physics, Johns Hopkins University (2006-)

    AAS Helen B. Warner Prize 2003
    Shaw Prize in Astronomy 2006, with Saul Perlmutter and Brian P. Schmidt
    MacArthur Fellowship 2008
    Albert Einstein Medal 2011, with Perlmutter
    Nobel Prize for Physics 2011, with Perlmutter and Schmidt
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Research Associate (1992)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    National Academy of Sciences (2009)
    German Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry


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