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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 ..."


Present Position
Research Area Experience
Other Positions
Other Duties
Competitive Mission Proposals
Some Smaller Proposals
Postdocs Supervised
First-Author Talks (not up to date)
Other Conference Abstracts
Invited Papers, Lectures, or Presentations

Observational Cosmology Laboratory

Present Position:

Senior Astrophysicist and Goddard Fellow
Observational Cosmology Laboratory, Code 665
Astrophysics Division
Sciences and Exploration Directorate
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Research Area Experience:

Cosmology, Far IR astronomy and instrumentation, Fourier transform spectroscopy, large space telescopes, interplanetary dust, diffuse background radiation


1968 B.A. (Physics), Swarthmore College, (Highest Honors, Phi Beta Kappa)
1974 Ph.D. (Physics), Univ. of California at Berkeley (4.0 GPA)

Other Positions:

1974 - 1976 NAS-NRC Research Associate, Goddard Institute for Space Studies
1975 Lecturer in Astronomy, Columbia University
1976 - pres Principal Investigator, COBE FIRAS (Far Infrared Absolute Spectrophotometer)
1976 - 1982 Study Scientist, COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer)
1982 - pres Project Scientist, COBE
1976 - pres Astrophysicist, Goddard Space Flight Center
1988 - 1989 Head, Infrared Astrophysics Branch, GSFC
1989 - 1990 Senior Scientist, GSFC
1990 - 1993 Head, Infrared Astrophysics Branch, GSFC
1993 - pres Senior Astrophysicist (3104), GSFC
1994 - pres Goddard Fellow, GSFC
1995 - pres Study Scientist and Senior Project Scientist, Next Generation (James Webb) Space Telescope
2007 - 2008 Chief Scientist, Science Mission Directorate, NASA HQ (part time)
2011 - pres College Park Professor, Department of Physics, University of Maryland

Other Duties:

1992 - 1994 Chair, Board of External Advisors, Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctic (CARA)
1992 Member, NASA Lunar Astrophysics Management Operations Working Group
1992 - pres Adjunct Professor, Physics, University of Maryland
1995 Member, National Acad. of Sciences committee on GP-B
1996 - 1998 Member, Structure and Evolution of the Universe subcommittee
1996 Co-Chair, Origins Technology Working Group
1996 - 2000 Member, New Millennium Program Science Working Group
1998 - 2002 Member, MMA (Millimeter Array, became ALMA) Oversight Committee for NSF
1998 - 2001 Councilor, American Astronomical Society
1998 - 2001 NAS/NRC Board on Physics and Astronomy
1999 HST Second Decade Committee, Bob Brown, Chair
2001 - 2002 Member, National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Physics of the Universe
2003 Member, National Academy of Sciences committee on GP-B
2003-2005 Member, Standing Review Board, Kepler project
2005 Member, Exoplanet Roadmap Committee
2006-2007 Member, Astrophysics Subcommittee, NASA Advisory Committee
2006 - President, John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts
2008 - Member, Board of Directors, Center for Excellence in Education
2008 Chair, Blue Ribbon panel, SOFIA scientific program review
2010 - 2011 Member, National Academy of Science committee, "Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards"


Open Scholarship (honorary), Swarthmore, 1964-68
Putnam national math contest, 1967, 27th place nationwide
Highest possible score (990), physics Grad Records, 1968
Highest Honors and Phi Beta Kappa, Swarthmore 1968
NSF Fellowship and honorary Woodrow Wilson Fellowship 1968-70
Hertz Foundation Fellowship, 1970-74
Group Achievement Award, GSFC, 1978
Exceptional Achievement Award, GSFC, 1986
Certificate of Recognition, Inventions and Contributions, GSFC, 1986
John C. Lindsay Memorial Award (NASA-GSFC), 1990
Group Achievement Award (NASA-GSFC), 1990
NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award, 1991
NASA Group Achievement Award, 1991
Rotary National Space Achievement Award, 1991
National Air and Space Museum Trophy, 1991
Aviation Week and Space Technology Laurels, 1992, for Space/Missiles
Discover Magazine Technology Award finalist, 1993
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Space Science Award, 1993
Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, American Astronomical Society and American Institute of Physics, 1993 (presented Jan. 1994)
Senior Astrophysicist (3104 position), 1993, GSFC
Goddard Fellow, 1994, GSFC
Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, Swarthmore College, 1994
John Scott Award, City of Philadelphia, 1995
Rumford Prize, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1996
Fellow, American Physical Society, 1996
Hall of Fame, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 1997
Member, National Academy of Sciences, 1997
GSFC Group Achievement Award, Next Generation Space Telescope, 1997
Marc Aaronson Memorial Prize, 1998
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1998
Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, Franklin Institute, 1999
NASA/GSFC Outstanding Teamwork award for NGST SEB, 1999
Newton (NJ) High School Hall of Fame, 2003
Presidential Rank Distinguished Performance award, NASA, 2003
George W. Goddard Award, Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, 2005
Cosmology prize, Pat and Peter Gruber Foundation, 2006

Nobel Prize in Physics, with George Smoot, 2006

Fellow, Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers, 2006
Award in Physics, Washington Academy of Sciences, 2006
Antoinette de Vaucouleurs medal, U of TX, 2007
NASA Distinguished Service Medal, 2007
Robinson Prize in Cosmology, Newcastle University, 2008
Presidential Rank Distinguished Performance award, NASA, 2008
D. Sci. (Honorary), University of Maryland, College Park, 2008
Fellow, Optical Society of America, 2009
Gold Medal, Prime Minister of India, 2009
Award of Excellence, NJ Educational Association, 2010
GSFC Group Achievement Award, WISE science team, 2011
Daniel Chalonge medal, Observatoire de Paris, 2011
D. Sci. (honoris causa), University of Notre Dame, 2011
Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science, 2012
Award of Excellence, Carson Scholars Foundation, 2013
Regents' Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley, 2013
Circle of Discovery, University of Maryland, 2013


American Astronomical Society, American Physical Society, Sigma Xi, International Astronomical Union, National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Optical Society of America, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE)

Competitive Mission Proposals

  1. Co-I on MPF Discovery proposal to NASA, Microlensing Planet Finder, with David Bennett as PI, submitted 2004 and 2006
  2. Co-I on WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, previously NGSS, Next Generation Sky Survey), Ned Wright PI. Selected as SMEX mission.
  3. COBE mission, 1974 and later versions. Flew in 1989.

Some smaller proposals

  1. 2008, Co-I on SLEWS, with Jon Gardner, PI, to do wide survey with warm Spitzer
  2. 2008, Co-I on SEDS, with Giovanni Fazio, PI, to do very deep cosmology with warm Spitzer; selected!
  3. 2006, Co-PI on IPP proposal (Innovative Partnership Program), "Large Focal Plane Technology For Simultaneous Imaging and Guiding", with D. Brent Mott (GSFC), Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Scientific, and Conceptual Analytics. Selected, then transferred to Bernard D. Rauscher following Nobel Prize announcement.
  4. Numerous proposals (some successful) with Sergei Ipatov, Nick Gor'kavyi, and Leonid Ozernoy to calculate interplanetary dust motions
  5. Several proposals, some successful, with Alexander Kashlinsky et al. on structure in the CIB
  6. ~ 2001, with Rogier Windhorst, successful, to look for Cosmic IR background in HST deep parallels
  7. 2009, co-I with Amber Straughn, observing proposal to VLT, Tracing Galaxy Assembly: A Study of Galaxy Merger Kinematics with SINFONI

Postdocs supervised

  1. Michael Wilson, cosmology, now at LANL
  2. Leonid Ozernoy, dissident from former Soviet Union, interplanetary dust orbits, deceased
  3. Nick Gor'kavyi, from Ukraine, interplanetary dust orbits, now independent contractor
  4. Sergei Ipatov, from Moscow, interplanetary dust orbits, Catholic U and Qatar U
  5. David Alves, IR stellar astronomy, now independent contractor
  6. John Wise, numerical simulations of star and galaxy formation, now at U of Georgia
  7. Athena Stacy, numerical simulations of star and galaxy formation

First-Author Talks (not up to date)

  1. 2000AAS...197.1902, Mather, J. C. The Future of the Universe, invited talk
  2. 2000AAS...196.2301, Mather, J. C. The NGST Science and Program Status, special session
  3. National Space Society, Albuquerque, NM, "The Next Generation Space Telescope", May 28, 2001
  4. GSFC Visitor Center, "The Next Generation Space Telescope", April 26, 2001
  5. Northern Virginia Astronomy Club, Sept. 30, 2000

Other Conference Abstracts

  1. 2000 AAS...19712301W, 12/2000, Windhorst, R. A.; Bernstein, R. A.; Collins, N.; Plait, P.; Woodgate, B.; Mather, J.; Madau, P.; Shaver, P. Closing in on the Hydrogen reionization edge signal at z<7.2 with deep STIS/CCD Parallels
  2. 2000 AAS...197.1601S, 12/2000, Sengupta, R.; Offenberg, J. D.; Fixsen, D.; Mather, J. C.; Hanisch, R.; Nieto-Santisteban, M.; Katz, D.; Springer, P., Spaceborne Embedded COTS for low-to-moderate Radiation Environments.
  3. 2000 AAS...197.1409L, 12/2000, Leisawitz, D.; Mather, J. C.; Blain, A. W.; Langer, W. D.; Moseley, S. H.; Yorke, H. W. Next-generation Far-IR Telescopes and Interferometers: Scientific Capabilities and Technology Challenges
  4. 2000 iutd.conf.415S, 00/2000, Stockman, H. S.; Mather, J. C., The NGST Science Program (Review)
  5. 2000 IAUS.204E.37S, 00/2000, Stockman, H. S. Peter; Mather, John, The NGST Mission
  6. 2000 IAUS.202E.90G, 00/2000, Gorkavyi, N. N.; Ozernoy, L.; Heap, S.; Taidakova, T.; Mather, J. Signatures of Exo-solar Planets in the Circumstellar Disks Around Beta Pictoris, Vega, and Epsilon Eridani
  7. 2000 IAUS.202E.74T, 00/2000, Taidakova, T. A.; Ozernoy, L.; Gorkavyi, N.; Mather, J. Numerical Modeling of the IPD Cloud and Exozodi Disks
  8. 2000 ADASS...9.539F, 00/2000, Fixsen, D. J.; Hanisch, R. J.; Mather, J. C.; Nieto-Santisteban, M. A.; Offenberg, J. D.; Sengupta, R.; Stockman, H. S. Cosmic Ray Rejection and Data Compression for NGST
  9. 2000 ADASS...9.311N, 00/2000, Nieto-Santisteban, M. A.; Hanisch, R. J.; Offenberg, J. D.; Fixsen, D. J.; Sengupta, R.; Mather, J. C., On-Board Supercomputing for NGST and NASA's Remote Exploration and Experimentation Project

Invited Papers, Lectures, or Presentations

Invited COBE talks were given at: IAU (Baltimore 1988), AAS (Boston 1988, Washington 1990), NASA GSFC (1990), Fermilab (1990), University of Chicago (1990), Aspen (1990), Princeton University (1990), Institute for Advanced Study (1990), IAU (NASA GSFC 1990), COSPAR (The Hague, 1990), After the First Three Minutes (Maryland, 1990), Cornell (1990), AAS (Washington 1991), Aspen (1991), Princeton (1991), Fermilab (1991), IAU, (Buenos Aires 1991), APS (4/92), General Relativity 13 (Argentina 6/92), Scientist to Scientist Colloquium (8/92), U of Colorado (11/92), Texas Symposium (Berkeley 12/92), AAS (1/93), Global Foundation (1/93), ESTEC Symposium on Frontiers of Space and Ground Based Astronomy (5/93), Conference on Infrared Physics, Switzerland (6/93), Space Telescope Science Institute Conf for Riccardo Giacconi (5/93), AAS Heinemann Prize lecture (1/94), AAAS (2/94), High Energy Physics, Erice (5/94), Rome cosmology (6/94), Cosmic Background, Erice (9/94)

Press briefings at NASA HQ, JPL, Western Space and Missile Center (1989).

Organizer and lecturer, Resident Research Associate cosmology lecture series, Smithsonian Institution 1991; lecturer, 1993.

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John Mather
Painting Tim Tompkins - PaintHistory.org

Name: John Cromwell Mather
Birth: 7 Aug, 1946 Roanoke, Virginia
Institution: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
Award: "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation"
Subject: Astrophysics
Portion of cash: 1/2
Patents: John Mather has not patented his work
Nobel Medal Cash Charity
External Resources Text/Videos