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John C. Mather

AKA John Cromwell Mather

Born: 7-Aug-1946
Birthplace: Roanoke, VA

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Big Bang

Astrophysicist and cosmologist John C. Mather was reading biographies of Galileo and Darwin before adolescence, and earned his PhD in physics with a perfect 4.0 grade point average at Berkeley. While doing post-doctorate work at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, he led the team that proposed the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite. He then spent the next two decades shepherding the project through design, construction, and fruition. In 1992, the COBE team mapped primordial hot and cold spots in cosmic microwave background radiation, and showed that the spectrum of radiation left over from the Big Bang matches the theoretical prediction. Done in collaboration with George F. Smoot of the University of California, this work essentially confirms the Big Bang theory. Mather and Smoot were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006.

Since the mid-1990s, Smoot has been working on the James Webb Space Telescope, designed to replace the aging Hubble Telescope. His other projects include the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and NASA's Single Aperture Far InfraRed telescope (SAFIR). He also wrote The Very First Light, a book explaining the Big Bang in terms a non-scientist can understand.

Father: Robert Mather (geneticist)
Mother: Martha Mather (school teacher)
Sister: Janet Mather
Wife: Jane Hauser Mather

    High School: Newton High School, Newton, NJ (1964)
    University: BS Physics, Swarthmore College (1968)
    University: PhD Physics, UC Berkeley (1974)
    Scholar: Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University (1974-76)
    Scholar: Astrophysics, Goddard Space Flight Center (1976-88)
    Administrator: Senior Astrophysicist, Goddard Space Flight Center (1988-)

    Rumford Prize 1996
    Benjamin Franklin Medal 1998(by the Franklin Institute)
    Nobel Prize for Physics 2006 (with George F. Smoot)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Physical Society
    National Academy of Sciences
    Optical Society of America
    Science Debate 2008

Author of books:
Cosmic Background Explorer (1986)
The Very First Light: The True Inside Story of the Scientific Journey Back to the Dawn of the Universe (1996, with John Boslough)

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