Microwave Pioneers: John C. Mather “A Singular Purpose”

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  • Author: Peter H. Siegel

This article is the first in a continuing series of biographical pieces on individuals who have made significant and continuous contributions to microwave science, technology, and applications over the course of their careers. It is intended to bring to the reader, especially those new to the field, a portrait of an individual who serves as a role model for the community and a detailed description of their accomplishments. At the same time, it tries to bridge with commonality, the experiences of the subject with those of the scientists, engineers, and technologists who are following in their footsteps or hope to establish a similar record of success.

The articles are composed only after an extensive face-to-face interview with the subject and are helped immensely by additional input and editing by the subjects themselves. The focus of this article is Dr. John C. Mather, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, for the first complete measurement of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) blackbody spectrum, and the first confirmed findings of CMB anisotropy. For astronomers and cosmologists at least, these were arguably two of the most important and influential experimental discoveries of the 20 th century. For microwave engineers, the satellite mission that Dr. Mather conceived and worked on for more than fifteen years is a crowning achievement in a very large suite of successful microwave science instruments that NASA has developed, built, and delivered to space.

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