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Arno Penzias

Arno PenziasAKA Arno Allan Penzias

Born: 26-Apr-1933
Birthplace: Munich, Bavaria, Germany

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Astronomer
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Detected primordial radiation

Military service: US Army Signal Corps (radar officer, 1954-57)

Arno Penzias was testing a directional radio antenna intended for satellite communications in 1964 when he noticed an unusual pattern in the background static. At first Penzias and his colleague at Bell Laboratories, Robert Woodrow Wilson, assumed that they had encountered interference caused from terrestrial broadcasts or even bird droppings on their equipment, but analysis showed that the microwave radiation was coming uniformly from all directions.

In consultation with physicist Robert H. Dicke, they came to understand that this stable pattern must be residual cosmic background radiation, a lingering aftereffect of the "big bang" that created the universe many billions of years ago. Their discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation is considered among the 20th century's most important findings in astrophysics, earning Penzias and Wilson the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1978. Penzias also conducted important research in interstellar chemistry, analyzing millimeter-wave radiation from space to determine the chemical content of molecules in the vast space between stars.

He was born in Germany, but Jewish, when that was grounds for extermination. His family fled to England in 1938 and settled in America, where his parents worked at menial jobs and he attended City College of New York, because that school offered free tuition when he could not afford to pay. In Stockholm to receive his Nobel honors, Penzias says he took great pleasure in seeking out every German reporter he could find, to tell them the story of his childhood escape from the Nazi government.

Father: Karl Penzias (carpenter)
Mother: Justine Eisenreich Penzias (factory worker)
Brother: Gunther
Wife: Anne

    High School: Brooklyn Technical High School, Brooklyn, NY
    University: BS Physics, City College of New York (1954)
    University: MA Physics, Columbia University (1958)
    University: PhD Physics, Columbia University (1962)
    Scholar: Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University (1972-82)

    Nobel Prize for Physics 1978 (with Robert Woodrow Wilson and Pyotr Kapitsa)
    Henry Draper Medal 1977 (with Robert Woodrow Wilson)
    Lucent Spokesman and Scientific Advisor (1997-)
    Bell Laboratories VP Research (1981-97)
    Bell Laboratories Executive Director of Research (1979-81)
    Bell Laboratories Director of Research (1976-79)
    Bell Laboratories Director, Radio Physics Research Department (1972-76)
    Bell Laboratories Research Staff (1962-72)
    Member of the Board of Arthur D. Little
    Member of the Board of Duracell
    Member of the Board of WarpSpeed Communications
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Physical Society
    Committee of Concerned Scientitsts
    Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
    Democratic National Committee
    Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
    Federation of American Scientists Board of Sponsors
    Friends of Joe Lieberman
    Gephardt for President
    Gore 2000
    International Astronomical Union
    IEEE 1990
    International Union of Radio Science
    National Academy of Engineering
    National Academy of Sciences
    Obama for America
    PAC For a Change
    Naturalized US Citizen 1946
    German Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Polish Ancestry

Official Website:

Author of books:
Ideas and Information (1989)
Digital Harmony: Business, Technology and Life After Paperwork (1996)

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