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Robert Woodrow Wilson

American astronomer
For other people named Robert Wilson, see Robert Wilson (disambiguation).
For the accelerator physicist and founding director of Fermilab, see Robert R. Wilson.
Robert Woodrow Wilson
Robert Wilson (28215880301) (cropped).jpg
Wilson in 2016
BornJanuary 10, 1936
Houston, Texas, U.S.
NationalityUnited States
Alma materRice University
California Institute of Technology
Known forCosmic Microwave Background Radiation
Elizabeth Rhoads Sawin
(m. 1958)
AwardsHenry Draper Medal (1977)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1978)
Scientific career
Part of a series on
Physical cosmology
Full-sky image derived from Planck spacecraft data
  • Big Bang · Universe
  • Age of the universe
  • Chronology of the universe
Early universe
  • Inflation · Nucleosynthesis
  • Gravitational wave (GWB)
  • Microwave (CMB) · Neutrino (CNB)
Expansion · Future
  • Hubble's law · Redshift
  • Metric expansion of space
  • FLRW metric · Friedmann equations
  • Inhomogeneous cosmology
  • Future of an expanding universe
  • Ultimate fate of the universe
Components · Structure
  • Lambda-CDM model
  • Dark energy · Dark fluid · Dark matter
  • Shape of the universe
  • Galaxy filament · Galaxy formation
  • Large quasar group
  • Large-scale structure
  • Reionization · Structure formation
  • Black Hole Initiative (BHI)
  • Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)
  • Dark Energy Survey
  • Illustris project
  • Planck space observatory
  • Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)
  • 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey ("2dF")
  • Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy
    Probe (WMAP)
  • Aaronson
  • Alfvén
  • Alpher
  • Bharadwaj
  • Copernicus
  • de Sitter
  • Dicke
  • Ehlers
  • Einstein
  • Ellis
  • Friedmann
  • Galileo
  • Gamow
  • Guth
  • Hawking
  • Hubble
  • Lemaître
  • Mather
  • Newton
  • Penrose
  • Penzias
  • Rubin
  • Schmidt
  • Smoot
  • Suntzeff
  • Sunyaev
  • Tolman
  • Wilson
  • Zeldovich
  • List of cosmologists
Subject history
  • Discovery of cosmic microwave
    background radiation
  • History of the Big Bang theory
  • Religious interpretations of
    the Big Bang theory
  • Timeline of cosmological theories
  • Category Category
  • Crab Nebula.jpg Astronomy portal

Robert Woodrow Wilson (born January 10, 1936) is an American astronomer who, along with Arno Allan Penzias, discovered cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) in 1964. The pair won the 1978 Nobel prize in physics for their discovery.

While doing tests and experiments with the Holmdel Horn Antenna at Bell Labs in Holmdel Township, New Jersey, Wilson and Penzias discovered a source of noise in the atmosphere that they could not explain. After removing all potential sources of noise, including pigeon droppings on the antenna, the noise was finally identified as CMB, which served as important corroboration of the Big Bang theory.

In 1970, Wilson led a team that made the first detection of a rotational spectral line of carbon monoxide (CO) in an astronomical object, the Orion Nebula, and eight other galactic sources. Subsequently, CO observations became the standard method of tracing cool molecular interstellar gas, and detection of CO was the foundational event for the fields of millimeter and submillimeter astronomy.

Life and work

Robert Woodrow Wilson was born on January 10, 1936, in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Lamar High School in River Oaks, in Houston, and studied as an undergraduate at Rice University, also in Houston, where he was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa society. He then earned a PhD in physics at California Institute of Technology.

Wilson and Penzias also won the Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 1977. Wilson received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1987.

Wilson remained at Bell Laboratories until 1994, when he was named a senior scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wilson has been a resident of Holmdel Township, New Jersey.

Wilson married Elizabeth Rhoads Sawin in 1958.

Wilson is one of the 20 American recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics to sign a letter addressed to President George W. Bush in May 2008, urging him to "reverse the damage done to basic science research in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill" by requesting additional emergency funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Wilson was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2009.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Robert Woodrow Wilson, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (view authors).

Date of last edit: 2021-09-18T00:46:32.000Z