Nobel Prize-Winning Astrophysicist to Visit Dickinson in March


Christopher Michel (CC BY 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

John Mather, Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist and senior project scientist on the James Webb telescope, will receive this year’s Joseph Priestley Award from Dickinson College. Mather will visit Dickinson in March to deliver the Priestley Lecture and meet with students.

President John E. Jones III announced Mather’s honor in an email to the student body last Thursday, along with this year’s Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholars and Writers Program honoree, U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. 

Mather is the latest of 16 Nobel laureates who have received the Priestley Award since its inception in 1952, including luminaries like Linus Pauling and John Conway. Last year’s Priestley Award winner was Duolingo co-founder and CEO Luis Von Ahn who gave the annual Priestley Lecture and met with Spanish-speaking students for a closed reception.

Since 1995, Mather has been the senior project scientist on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which has made headlines for its $10 billion budget and its incredible images of outer space. In 2006, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics (along with George F. Smoot of the UC Berkeley) for using the Cosmic Background Explorer spacecraft to measure microwave radiation left over from the Big Bang. 

Mather is the senior astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He has served on committees for National Academy of Sciences, NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Center for Astrophysical Research in the Antarctic. In addition to the Nobel, he has received more than 50 other awards in his field, including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 2007.