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Astronomy

John Mather: JWST will continue the exploration of the early universe

Nobel-winning NASA physicist and chief scientist of the James Webb Space Telescope takes us on a tour of NASA Goddard, as telescope testing and assembly continues.

31 July 2014, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201407.04

John C. Mather is an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, and Chief Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope.

He received a bachelor's degree in physics from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania as well as a doctorate in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Mather's research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology.

As a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York City, he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer mission (1974-76), and came to Goddard Space Flight Center to become the Study Scientist (1976-88), Project Scientist (1988-98), and also the Principal Investigator for the Far Infrared Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE).

Mather and the COBE team showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million, confirming the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy. Mather received the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics. He shares the prize with George F. Smoot of the University of California for their collaborative work on understanding the Big Bang.

Mather is a Fellow of SPIE, and received the George W. Goddard Award from SPIE in 2005. He was interviewed in May 2014.