John C. Mather Ph.D.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2006
Nobel Prize also awarded to George F. Smoot
Physicist - Astrophysics, Instrumentation. COBE, Blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.
"For years I had successfully repelled all challenges to my concentration on one overwhelming responsibility. Now, it was done, and I switched my attention to ..."
- My earliest school recollection, from age 6, is actually of mathematics, realizing that one could fill an entire page with digits and never come to the largest possible number, so I saw what was meant by infinity.
- I competed in the nationwide math contest and placed 7th in New Jersey, I think, and in a statewide physics contest I placed first. With all this success I was feeling pretty good, but my parents reminded me frequently that I would still have to work hard in college, since I had been a big fish in a little pond, and I didn't know what was yet to come in the big world.
- I think most amazing of all, we've seen Pompeii, with plumbing, faucets, running water, and so many signs of modern life that one can hardly imagine how that knowledge was lost. Sometimes I think it would be a lot of fun to write books about how great cities were built, but I seem to have something else to do right now.
- I can't imagine telling anything like a complete biographical story about my work on the COBE. I made an attempt in the book "The Very First Light", written with John Boslough, a professional science writer. Some people have told me that they were exhausted after reading this book, the story was so full of terrifying moments. Needless to say, the COBE team was exhausted too at various times.
- Probably my wildest idea was to send a miniature telescope to the outer solar system to see the cosmic infrared background light directly, without interference from interplanetary dust. This idea was half-baked but it was fun to work on it...