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John C. Mather
Born August 7, 1946 (1946-08-07) (age 74)
Nationality American
Alma mater Swarthmore College
University of California, Berkeley
Known for Cosmic microwave background radiation
Awards Nobel prize medal.svg Nobel Prize in Physics (2006)
Scientific career
Fields Astrophysics, cosmology
Institutions NASA

Professor John Cromwell Mather (born 7 August 1946 in Roanoke, Virginia) is an American astrophysicist and cosmologist. He was given the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for his work on COBE satellite with George Smoot. The COBE satellite measures black holes and cosmic radiation.

This work supported the big-bang theory of the universe beginning. It made cosmology much more accurate. The Nobel Prize committee said: "the COBE-project can also be regarded as the starting point for cosmology as a precision science."

Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. He is a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park. In 2007, Mather was listed in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World.

Education and early work

COBE cmb fluctuations
Picture of cosmic radiation taken by COBE

Work with COBE

After being awarded his Ph.D. Professor Mather went to work at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University. He started the work on COBE there (1974-1976). More than 1,000 researchers, engineers and other workers made the COBE satellite. John Mather was in control of them all and created the technology for measuring the cosmic radiation. George Smoot had the job of measuring small changes in the temperature of the radiation.

Professor Mather and John Boslough wrote all about the COBE teams work in a book called The Very First Light.


  • 1964-68 Swarthmore College Open Scholarship (honorary)
  • 1967 William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, 30th place nationwide
  • 1968-70 NSF Fellowship and honorary Woodrow Wilson Fellowship
  • 1970-74 Fellow, Hertz Foundation
  • 1974-76 Postdoctoral Fellow, NRC
  • 1990 NASA GSFC John C. Lindsay Memorial Award
  • 1991 Rotary National Space Achievement Award
  • 1991 National Air and Space Museum Trophy
  • 1992 Aviation Week and Space Technology Laurels for Space/Missiles
  • 1993 Discover Magazine Technology Award finalist
  • 1993 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Space Science Award
  • 1993 American Astronomical Society and American Institute of Physics Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics
  • 1994 Fellow, Goddard Space Flight Center
  • 1994 Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Swarthmore College
  • 1995 City of Philadelphia John Scott Award
  • 1996 American Academy of Arts and Sciences Rumford Prize
  • 1996 Fellow, American Physical Society
  • 1997 Aviation Week and Space Technology Hall of Fame
  • 1997 Member, National Academy of Sciences
  • 1998 Marc Aaronson Memorial Prize
  • 1998 Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1999 Franklin Institute Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics
  • 2005 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers George W. Goddard Award
  • 2006 Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation Prize in Cosmology
  • 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics
  • 2007 Fellow, SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering

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