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Alan Guth

AKA Alan Harvey Guth

Born: 27-Feb-1947
Birthplace: New Brunswick, NJ

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Inflationary theory of cosmology

Cosmologist and particle physicist Alan Guth proposed a new cosmological model, called inflation theory, in 1981. An alteration of the conventional big bang theory, it offers a bigger, faster bang. "The classic Big Bang theory", Guth explains, "says nothing about what banged, what happened before it banged, or what caused it to bang". Vastly oversimplified, inflation theory suggests a superfast early-universe expansion in a tiny sliver of a second of time, the explosion driven by gravitational repulsion, the repulsion of matter and antimatter, which stretched the universe toward its present size and scale unimaginably faster than conventional cosmology had predicted. According to calculations by Guth and others, this occurred in a fraction of a single second defined, approximately, by a decimal followed by 36 zeroes and a one.

Earlier accounts of the big-bang theory depicted a universe that cooled so quickly it prevented homogeneity, but Guth's period of inflation establishes a period of time before the big bang, when the universe was small enough to evenly distribute its contents. The inflationary universe model seems to more accurately explain the spectrum of density fluctuations that gave rise to the rapid expansion that created the universe as we know it. His theory has gained increasing acceptance in scientific circles, and his name is frequently mentioned as a possible Nobel Prizewinner.

Father: Hyman Guth (dry cleaner)
Mother: Elaine Cheiten
Wife: Susan Tisch (high school girlfriend, m. 1971, one son, one daughter)
Son: Lawrence David ("Larry", b. 1977)
Daughter: Jennifer Lynn ("Jenny", b. 1983)

    High School: Highland Park High School, Highland Park, NJ (1965)
    University: BS Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1968)
    University: MS Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    University: PhD Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1972)
    Teacher: Instructor of Physics, Princeton University (1971-74)
    Scholar: Research Associate, Columbia University (1974-77)
    Scholar: Research Associate, Cornell University (1977-79)
    Teacher: Assoc Prof of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1980-86)
    Professor: Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1986-89)
    Professor: Jerrold Zacharias Professorship of Physics, MIT (1989-92)
    Professor: Victor F. Weiskopf Professorship of Physics, MIT (1992-)

    Eddington Medal 1996
    MIT School of Science Prize 1999
    Benjamin Franklin Medal 2001 (awarded by the Franklin Institute)
    ICTP Dirac Prize 2002
    Gruber Prize in Cosmology 2004
    IOP Isaac Newton Medal 2009
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    National Academy of Sciences
    American Astronomical Society
    Jewish Ancestry

Official Website:

Author of books:
The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins (1998)

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