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James Peebles wins Nobel Prize in Physics

P. James Peebles WF ’58 | Recipient of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics (photo by Juan Diego Soler)

James Peebles WF ‘58 has won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Peebles shares the award with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz “for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos.”

Cited by the Nobel Committee “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology,” Dr. Peebles has been working in cosmology since the 1960s, and his theoretical frameworks underlie current understandings of the universe. Dr. Peebles used his theoretical calculations to contribute to the Big Bang Model, predict the existence of cosmic microwave background radiation, and pioneer models of cosmic structure formation, among other discoveries.

“The results showed us a universe in which just five percent of its content is known, the matter which constitutes stars, planets, trees—and us, “said the Nobel Committee in its press release. “The rest, 95 percent, is unknown dark matter and dark energy. This is a mystery and a challenge to modern physics.”

Dr. Peebles, the Albert Einstein Professor of Science Emeritus at Princeton University, now focuses on what he calls “underappreciated issues.” He was awarded the Shaw Prize in 2004 for his “groundbreaking contribution to cosmology.”

“He laid the foundations for almost all modern investigations in cosmology, both theoretical and observational, transforming a highly speculative field into a precision science.”


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