George Gamow


Born: Mar 4, 1904 (O.S. Feb 20) in Odessa, Russian Empire
Died: Aug 19, 1958 (at age 64) in Boulder, Colorado, U.S.
Nationality: Russian, American
Famous For: Big Bang, Gamow factor, Gamow–Teller transition, Alpher–Bethe–Gamow paper, Alpha decay
Awards: Kalinga Prize (1956)

George Gamow was a Ukrainian-American cosmologist and a theoretical physicist. He was also an early developer and advocate of Lemaitre’s Big Bang Theory. He made the discovery of the alpha decay through quantum tunneling theory and also worked on the radioactive decay of atomic nucleus, stellar nucleosynthesis, star formation and the Big Bang nucleosynthesis.

Gamow’s Early Life

George Gamow was born in 1904 in the Russian Empire. His parents were both teachers, but his mom died when he was nine years old. As such, he grew up with his father. His education was mainly self-taught. He attended university at the Novorossiya University and later went to the University of Leningrad where he concentrated on optics and cosmology.

In Leningrad, George made friends with two other students who were also theoretical physicists – Dmitri Ivanenko and Lev Landau. They often met to analyze and discuss groundbreaking papers based on quantum mechanics.

Gamow’s Career

After getting his Ph.D. from Leningrad, Gamow started working at the University of Gottingen on quantum theory. This university was based in Germany and it was here that he researched the atomic nucleus. His findings gave him the basis for his doctorate.

He proposed the ‘liquid drop’ model of an atom first. This model treats the nucleus in an atom as one drop of an incompressible nuclear fluid. It was later developed by John Wheeler and Niels Bohr. He worked on the stellar physics with Fritz and Robert Atkinson as well.

In 1928, Gamow described the alpha decay theory. This was the first acknowledged explanation of the mannerism of radioactive components using quantum theory.

Gamow in the United States

After relocating to the US in 1934, Gamow started working as a professor of Physics at the University of George Washington. During this time, he worked with Edward Teller and published joint papers with him. Some of these important papers included the Beta Decay

in 1936 and the Internal Structures of Giant Stars in 1942.

Gamow produced another paper in 1928 with his students – Ralph Alpher and Mario Schenberg – on cosmology titled The Origin of Chemical Elements. This paper outlined present levels of helium and hydrogen in the atmosphere. These gases make up 99% of matter. This could be explained by the reactions which occurred in the Big Bang which led to the explanation of the Big Bang Theory.

In 1950, after the discovery of the DNA structure, George shifted his attention to genetics and biochemistry. He attempted to address the problem of how different kinds of bases in the DNA chains controlled the synthesis of the proteins from amino acids. Though it was flawed, it helped in the enumeration of the 20 amino acids present in proteins.

Other Contributions to Astronomy

Gamow had a great interest in astronomy and the solar system. In fact, he helped write a paper that supported von Weizsacker’s theory on how the planets formed during the solar system’s early days. He also published a paper which included his equations for calculating the radius and mass for the early galaxy. Since a primordial galaxy contains billions of stars that each have about the same mass as the sun, this was no easy task.

Later Years

Gamow developed an excessive drinking problem which precipitated his death in 1968 at age 64. He was laid to rest in the Green Mountain Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell


Born: July 15, 1943 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Nationality: Northern Irish
Famous For: Discovery of first 4 pulsars
Awards: The Herschel Medal (1989), Fellow of the Royal Society (March 2003), Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (2007)

Some say that Jocelyn Bell Burnell made the greatest discovery concerning astronomy in the 20th Century, which was radio pulsars. However, some feel she was pushed aside and did not receive the recognition she deserved for her discovery.

Early Life and Education

Susan Jocelyn Bell was born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1943 to a father who was an architect and who also designed a high-profile planetarium. Her parents encouraged her to study astronomy and science from an early age. Even so, she struggled in primary school and failed the exam for her 11+, which is the equivalent of a high school diploma in the United States.

At the same time, Bell’s teachers recognized her as a young woman with a special talents and intelligence. She was encouraged to focus her mind on astronomy and physics, a subject for which she displayed brilliance. She eventually earned her doctorate in astrophysics from New Hall, which is now Murray Edwards College, a branch of the prestigious University of Cambridge.

Bell’s Major Discovery

After earning her academic credentials, Bell became the driving force which built the radio telescope that would eventually discover radio pulsars, which are rapidly spinning neutron stars.

But at the time, Bell was still working under her thesis supervisor, British astronomer Antony Hewish. It was he, along with Martin Ryle, who received most of the recognition for the discovery of radio pulsars – a move which outraged many in the world of advanced astronomy.

Although she was kept out of certain meetings regarding this major discovery, Bell insisted that certain data was highly significant, and this specific data led to the discovery of radio pulsars. Her superiors, however, attempted to dismiss the data as signals from “little green men.” Then when it was established that Bell had been correct all along – it was Hewish and Ryle who received the credit and the Nobel Prize for the discovery.

Bell’s Reaction

With great humility, Bell herself said that too much has been made of her treatment at the hands of her mentors and the Nobel committee. She said that her discovery was partially “luck,” and she also points out that is has always been standard form to exclude research students (which she was at the time under Hewish) for major awards or recognition.

Awards and Recognitions

Despite missing out on science’s top prize, Jocelyn Bell Burnell has received some of the highest honors and awards in science and from her country. She was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (the equivalent of being knighted) in 1999. She also received the Herschel Medal, the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize, and was named a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Bell’s Personal Life

Susan Jocelyn Bell is also a devout Quaker, a belief system that she says is more akin to science than religion because it encourages followers to reject dogma and find their own way to God based on direct experience.

Today, Jocelyn Bell goes by the name of Jocelyn Bell Burnell, taking the name of a husband she married in 1968 but later divorced. She has one son from the marriage. At age 69, Bell Burnell is still active in her research and is among the most respected scientists in the world.

Johannes Kepler


Born: Dec 27, 1571 in Free Imperial City of Weil der Stadt, Germany
Died: Nov 15, 1630 (at age 58) in Regensburg, Electorate of Bavaria, HRE, present-day Germany
Nationality: German
Famous For: Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, Kepler conjecture

Johannes Kepler was a German astronomer who formulated three laws of planetary motion, which were indispensable in helping Isaac Newton discover the laws of gravity. He was also the earliest professional astronomer to support Copernicus’ theories regarding heliocentrism. Kepler also suggested more accurate and refined lenses for telescopes. An asteroid and one of the moon’s larger craters is named in honor of him.

Kepler’s Early Life

Kepler was born in Weil, Germany, in 1571. His father was a mercenary who abandoned the family when Johannes was young and his mother was tried as a witch when Kepler was an adult.

Kepler attended the University of Tübingen and in 1597, he married Barbara Müller, a wealthy young widow. They had five children together, but only a few of them survived. Following the death of Muller in 1611 , Kepler married Susanna Reuttinger. Together, they had six more children.

Kepler’s Career Beginnings

Kepler accepted an offer to teach mathematics and other subjects at the Lutheran school in Graz, now in Austria. He took this teaching job even though he wanted to join the ministry. However, because he was pressured to convert to Roman Catholicism, he left Graz and the school and moved with his family to Prague.

Relationship with Brahe

Some time before these troubles began, he met the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Brahe’s influence on Kepler was enormous. Brahe even supported Kepler and his family financially for a while and made it possible for him to advance in his career through his political connections.

Brahe was the most renowned astronomical observer in Europe at the time and he hired Kepler as his assistant. When Brahe died in 1601, Rudolph II, who was then the Holy Roman Emperor, appointed Kepler to be Brahe’s successor as the imperial mathematician.

Kepler’s Discoveries about Ellipses

Kepler’s most significant discoveries came when he was searching for an orbit that fit all of Brahe’s observations regarding the planet Mars. Before this, astronomers believed that a planet’s orbit was a circle, or combinations of circles. Kepler simply could not find a circular arrangement that agreed with Brahe’s observations.

Kepler eventually came to the realization that Mars’ orbit around the sun could not be a circle and was in fact an ellipse. The ellipse model worked and the theory that planets moved in circles, which had been in existence for some 2,000 years, was put to rest.

Kepler’s Three Laws

Throughout his studies, Kepler was able to formulate three scientific laws regarding the orbit of the planets and their motion around the sun. His first law states that every planet follows an oval shaped path, or orbit, around the sun. This path is called an ellipse and the sun is located at one focal point of the ellipse.

Kepler’s Second Law of Planetary Motion states that there is an imaginary line from the center of the sun to the center of a planet. As planets move along this imaginary line, they move faster when they are closer to the sun and slower as they are a longer distance from the sun.

Thirdly, Kepler defined the time that it takes for a planet to make one complete trip around the sun as one period. His third law states that the squares of the periods of two planets are proportional to the cubes of their main distances from the sun.

Kepler’s Later Years and Death

In his later years, Kepler became an adviser to General Albrecht von Wallenstein, for whom he drew up horoscopes. Wallenstein worked under Ferdinand II, who had succeeded Rudolph as Holy Roman Emperor. Kepler moved to Regensburg in Germany and died there on November 15, 1630.

Johann Gottfried Galle


Born: Jun 9, 1812 in Radis, Germany
Died: Jul 9, 1910 (at age 98) in Potsdam, Germany
Nationality: German
Famous For: Discovery of Neptune

Johann Gottfried Galle was a German astronomer. He was the first person to view planet Neptune and actually know that he was looking at the planet.

Early Life

Galle was born on June 9, 1812, in Papsthaus, just a short distance west of Radis and next to the town of Grafenhainichen. He attended Gymnasium in Wittenburg where he studied at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat Berlin between 1830 and 1833. He later became a teacher at the Gymnasium in Guben where he taught physics and mathematics, but he later transferred to the Gymnasium in Berlin.

The Berlin Observatory

Galle started working as an assistant to Johann Franz Encke at the Berlin Observatory in 1835. He worked there for the next 16 years. While there, he made use of a Fraunhofer-refractor with a 9 Zoll (22.5 cm) aperture which helped him discover an inner dark ring of Planet Saturn. Between December 1839 and March 1840, Galle had also discovered three new comets.

In 1845, Galle was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy. His doctoral thesis could be described as a reduction and a critical discussion of Ole Romer’s observation of the meridian transits of planets and other stars between October 20 and October 23 of 1706.

Discovering Neptune

About the same time as Galle received his Ph.D., he sent a copy of his thesis to Urbain Le Verrier. He did not receive a reply, however, until a year later on September 23, 1946. Le Verrier had been investigating perturbations of the orbit of Uranus. From his studies, he was able to derive the actual position of the then undiscovered planet and he therefore requested Galle to search for it in the corresponding part of the sky.

With the help of his assistant, Heinrich Louis, Galle discovered a star of 8th magnitude which was only one degree away from the calculated position. The following couple of days, they were able to measure the proper motion of the celestial object (4 seconds of arc) and it was then determined as a planet. The planet was subsequently named Neptune.

The Breslau Observatory

In 1851, Galle moved to Breslau (now Wroclaw), where he became the director of a local observatory and later became a professor of Astronomy at Schlesischen Friendrich-Wilhelms-Universitat Breslau. He worked in Breslau for more than 45 years. He was elected as the rector, which is the highest position one can hold in a university, for the academic year 1875/76.

Other Contributions to Astronomy

At Breslau, Galle still continued to study planetary orbits and even developed a method for calculating the total height of the aurorae and the path of Meteors. He consolidated the data for the 414 comets that were discovered by 1894 into a single piece of work. He was also interested with climatology and the Earth’s magnetic field. Galle published over 200 works in his life time.

Galle also made an important contribution in determining the mean distance between the sun and the earth (also known as the astronomical unit, AU). This turned out to be a difficult task, but he was finally able to calculate the measurement to within 10,000 miles.

Galle’s Later Years

Galle returned to Potsdam in Germany’s Brandenburg in 1897. He died on July 10, 1910, at the age of 98, but not before receiving accolades from the astronomical world on the 50th anniversary in 1896 of his discovery of Neptune. In 1977, Grafenhainichen erected a memorial in Galle’s honor.

Joseph-Louis Lagrange


Born: Jan 25, 1736 in Turin, Piedmont-Sardinia
Died: Apr 10, 1813 (at age deadAGE) in Paris, France
Nationality: Italian, French
Famous For: Analytical mechanics, Celestial mechanics, Mathematical analysis, Number theory
Awards: Grand Croix (1813), French Academy of Sciences (1764)

Joseph-Louis Lagrange was born on January 25, 1736, in the city of Turin, located in Italy. He was a well-known mathematician as well as an astronomer. Although he was born in Italy, he spent a good part of his life in the country of Prussia and in France. Lagrange made many contributions to many different fields, including number theory and celestial mechanics as well as analysis and classical mechanics.

LaGrange’s Accomplishments and Contributions

In 1766, Lagrange became the director of mathematics at the Prussian Academy of Sciences, located in Berlin. He stayed there for more than 20 years. During his time there, LaGrange created a large body of works and he won many prizes from the French Academy of Sciences. He published a treatise based on analytical mechanics in 1788 entitled Mecanique Analytique, which was considered to be the most comprehensive work of the era on that topic.

Also, a week before LaGrange died in 1813, he was awarded the Grand Croix, which was a prestigious award. He also went onto be awarded with other prestigious awards, including the French Academy of Sciences award, which was given to him in 1764 for a memoir that he wrote on the libation of the moon.

Prizes and Distinctions

LaGrange accomplished many things throughout his career, with one of them being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which was in 1790. In 1806, he was also elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

When the Eiffel Tower first opened, LaGrange was one of the few French scientists who were remembered on plaques during first stage of the tower. He was honored by having the Rue Lagrange named after him, which is located in Paris’ 5th Arrondissement. In addition to that, a lunar crater is named after him as well as the street where the house in which he was born is located.

LaGrange’s Personality

In addition to his awards and contributions to the field of astronomy, LaGrange was also known for his personality and his overall demeanor. People would talk about his nervousness and his timidity. He also let people take credit for some of the things he did simply to avoid any potential controversy.

Michael E Brown


Born: Jun 5, 1965
Nationality: American
Famous For: “killing” Pluto
Awards: Feynman Prize (2007), Kavli Prize in Astrophysics (2012)

Michael E. Brown was born on June 5th, 1965. He is a famous astronomer known for his work on distant objects (beyond Neptune) orbiting the sun. His biggest achievement is the discovery of the dwarf planet Eris, which is larger than Pluto.

Personal Life and Career

Mike Brown is from Huntsville, Alabama. He studied at the Virgil I. Grissom High School from which he graduated in 1983. In 1987, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in physics from Princeton University and he was also a member of the Princeton Tower Club during his time there.

Brown earned an M.A. in astronomy in 1990 from the University of California, Berkeley. He continued his education and got his Ph.D. from the same institute in 1994.

In March of 2003, Brown married Diane Binney. They have one daughter, Lilah Binney Brown, who was born in July of 2005. Today, Dr. Brown teaches undergraduate and graduate students at Caltech. His subjects range from introductory geology to the formation and evolution of our planetary system. He is also frequently invited to planetariums, science museums, college campuses and astronomical meetings to give lectures.

Brown’s Research and Findings

Dr. Brown is best known for his work on the trans-Neptunian objects (TNO), which are objects that orbit the sun beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune. His most famous achievement was the discovery of Eris, the dwarf planet, which is bigger than Pluto, which counted as one of the nine planets at that time. His discovery led to Pluto being re-designated as a planetoid.

His team gave informal names to Eris and its satellite, Dysnomia. Eris was informally called Xena and its moon, Dysnomia, was called Gabrielle. The names were inspired from the characters of Xena: Warrior Princess. Dr. Brown’s team is also credited with the discovery of planetoids 90377 Sedna and 90482 Orcus.

Brown’s discoveries have led to a greater understanding of dwarf planets, which are also called planetoids. As a consequence of his findings, Pluto lost its status as a planet and was downgraded to a planetoid. Mike jokingly refers to himself as the man who killed Pluto.

Brown’s Writings and Publications

Other than his work with TNOs, Michael Brown is also famous for his writings. He has authored about 100 scientific papers and his works have been published by World Book Science Year, Physics Today, and the New York Times. His memoir of discoveries, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, was published in 2010.

He has also taught a number of students during his career who are making a name for themselves in the field of astronomy. Some of notable among them are Megan Schwamb, Emily Schaller, Darin Ragozzine, Antonin Bouchez, Adam Burgasser, Chad Trujillo, Jean-Luc Margot and Marc Kuchner.

Awards and Honors

During his career, Mike E. Brown has won several awards and had many honors. For instance, Asteroid 11714, which was discovered in April 1998, was named Mikebrown in his honor. Time magazine also put him on its list of the 100 most influential people of 2006.

In 2007, Brown received Caltech’s most prestigious teaching honor, the Richard P. Feynman Award. He was also awarded the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics in 2012.

Nicolaus Copernicus


Born: Feb 19, 1473 in Torun, Royal Prussia, Kingdom of Poland
Died: May 24, 1543 (at age 70) in Frombork, Prince-Bishopric of Warmia, Royal Prussia, Kingdom of Poland
Nationality: Polish
Famous For: Heliocentrism, Copernicus’ Law

Nicolaus Copernicus was a German-Polish astronomer who helped found the discipline of astronomy when he posited that the earth was not fixed but rather was a moving planet. He believed that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe. This theory came to be known as heliocentrism.

Birth and Early Life

Copernicus was born in Thorn, now Torun, in Poland. When he was of age, he went to the University of Krakow. Through the influence of his uncle, Lucas Watzenrode, a prince-bishop, Copernicus was made a canon of the cathedral chapter of Frombork, now called Frauenberg. Because he was a canon, he had an income to support his astronomical studies.

The cathedral chapter also gave him permission to continue his studies in Italy. Copernicus went on and received a master’s degree from the University of Bologna and a doctorate’s from the University of Ferrara, where he also studied medicine. When he returned to Poland, he became the medical adviser to his uncle and served as a canon. He served in this position until his death.

Copernicus was a bachelor and had no children of his own, but he looked after the orphaned children of Katharine, his sister.

Refuting Ptolemy

When Copernicus was a young man, many astronomers believed in the theory that Ptolemy had formulated 1400 years before, which claimed that the earth was the center of the universe and did not move. Ptolemy said that everything revolved around it because that is what he observed in the sky.

However, Copernicus doubted Ptolemy’s theory. He believed that the earth speeds through space and that people cannot see this motion because they are traveling along with the earth. Copernicus realized that the motion described by Ptolemy was not true and what people see in the sky is affected by the motion of the earth. The real motion in the heavens needs to be separated from the apparent motion.

Copernicus’ Theory

Copernicus applied this idea to his tome, Concerning the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, in 1543. He dedicated the work to Paul III, who was Pope at the time, quite possibly to shield himself from any repercussions from the Catholic Church.

In this book, Copernicus showed how the motions of the earth could be used to explain the motions of other heavenly bodies. He believed there were eight spheres. In the outermost sphere hung the stars, which were immutable, or did not move at all. The sun was in the center of the spheres and it was surrounded by the spheres of the known planets.

The moon had its own sphere around the earth. Copernicus’ theories laid the foundations of the discoveries of Galileo, who discovered the moons of Jupiter, the planetary laws of Kepler and the gravitational principles of Isaac Newton.

Copernicus Creates Controversy

Because it removed the earth as the center of the universe, Copernicus’ theories became very controversial, though it took the Catholic Church a surprisingly long time to ban Celestial Spheres.

Copernicus died in 1543 when he was about 70 years old in Frombork, the place where he wrote his masterpiece. He is buried in its cathedral.

Pierre-Simon Laplace


Born: Mar 23, 1749 in Beaumont-en-Auge, Normandy, France
Died: Mar 5, 1827 (at age 77) in Paris, France
Nationality: French
Famous For: Black holes, Bayesian probability, Laplace’s equation, Laplace distribution, and many others

Pierre-Simon Laplace, also known as Marquis de Laplace, was a French astronomer and mathematician who became famous for his theory regarding the beginnings of the solar system.

LaPlace’s Early Life

Laplace was born in Beaumont-en-Auge, a village in Normandy. His father was a farmer, but Laplace was able to have a good education thanks to wealthy neighbors. Laplace’s father wanted him to become a priest, so he was at first sent to Caen to study for the priesthood. However, his enthusiasm soon turned to mathematics.

Because he excelled in this subject, Laplace became a mathematics professor at the Ecole Militaire in Paris at the early age of 20. The income from this teaching job allowed Laplace to concentrate on research in astronomy. He was one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s teachers, who later recognized and rewarded him for his work. But the friendship between the two men was often fraught.

In 1788, Laplace married a young woman somewhat younger than he was, and they had two children. When Laplace’s daughter died, Napoleon’s lack of empathy estranged him from the emperor.

LaPlace’s Study of the Solar System

In his Exposition of the System of the Universe, written in 1796, LaPlace started with a theoretical primitive nebula as the origin of the solar system. He believed that this huge cloud of gas rotated, cooled, contracted and birthed planets and satellites. The remaining material formed the sun. Laplace’s nebular hypothesis was accepted for a long time, but has now been replaced by more modern and accurate theories.

Contributions to Astronomy

Marquis de Laplace also contributed to studies in mathematical astronomy. Sir Isaac Newton had explained the movement of the solar system in general, but he had not solved all of the questions because the mathematical tools were not invented yet. Even Newton claimed that some aspects of how the solar system worked were just due to the will of God.

Laplace wished to reject this belief and he eventually accounted for the intricacies in the movement of the bodies and wrote about this in his Celestial Mechanics. In this multi-volume work, he summed up achievements in theoretical astronomy from the time of Newton. The books deal with equilibrium, the movement of fluids and solids, the law of gravity, and planetary mechanics.

Planetary Orbits and Black Holes

Laplace also discovered the stability of planetary orbits. He said that any eccentricities there were in a planet’s orbit were inconsequential and they always tend to correct themselves.

Laplace also theorized the existence of black holes. He believed that there were stars whose mass was such that not even light could escape the force of their gravity. He also believed that some of the nebulae that he saw through telescopes might be their own galaxies and not part of the galaxy to which the earth belonged. For the time, these theories were quite farseeing, as the existence of other galaxies was not even confirmed until the 20th century.

Awards and Later Years

Laplace was a member of several prestigious scientific organizations, including the Academie des Sciences, the Ecole Normale, and the Bureau des Longitudes, which he helped begin. He also became a count in 1806 and then a marquis in 1817.

Laplace died on March 5, 1827, while in Paris. His doctor removed his brain and it was on exhibit for several years thereafter.

Stephen Hawking


Born: Jan 8, 1942 in Oxford, England
Nationality: British
Famous For: A Brief History of Time, Hawking radiation, Singularity theorems
Awards: Albert Einstein Award (1978), Wolf Prize (1988), Prince of Asturias Award (1989), Copley Medal (2006), Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009), Special Fundamental Physics Prize (2012)

Stephen Hawking is a renowned theoretical physicist and astronomer. Currently, he works at the University of Cambridge as a physics professor and is still collecting awards attributed to his works. He is well known for his exploration and discovery pertaining to black holes and the fact that they produce radiation.

Hawking’s Background

Stephen Hawking’s background is an ambitious one. Born in the midst of World War II and on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death, Hawking’s mom had to be transferred to a safer place when she was about to give birth. This safer town was Oxford, the place in which he would be raised and receive his education.

The quality of the education at Oxford did not satisfy Hawking. It was his father’s idea for him to take a career similar to his and walk in his shoes in the medical field. But Stephen wanted something different. He was more inclined to science and wonder.

Despite his love for mathematics, Oxford College did not offer that discipline. Instead, he pursued chemistry as his main subject. From Oxford, he joined the University of Cambridge to undertake studies in cosmology and general relativity – the works of Einstein.

Hawking’s ASL Diagnosis

In 1963, at the age of 21, Hawking made frequent visits to the hospital for tests to explain his developing clumsiness that was becoming more persistent since his time at Oxford. Later, he was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ASL).

This debilitating medical condition quickly deteriorated his health and doctors said he would not live long enough to complete his doctorate. But according to Hawking, he was enjoying life more than in the past and was determined to make grand strides in the field of astronomy.

Studying Black Holes

Ten years after his diagnosis, Hawking was fascinated by the works of theoretical physicists Alexander Starobinsky and Yakov Zeldovitch. They discussed the likelihood that radiation could be produced from black holes. He took the discussion seriously, verified it, and even predicted the amount of radiation that is produced. Although his calculation and formula are accurate, the technology to show this has not yet been developed.

His precise theoretical explanation was that particles are created in pairs, such as black and white pairs. In the process of a black hole formation, the black particles are absorbed, leaving the white particles without a partner. This appears as radiation and is measurable. Together with Brandon Carter, D. Robinson, and Werner Israel, they concluded that a black hole is described by three common properties: angular momentum, electric charge, and mass.

Hawking’s Other Contributions to Astronomy

In conjunction with Jim Hartle, Hawking was able to develop the no-boundary in space ideology that predicted a barred universe. A further dialogue with Neil Turok actually led to the conclusion that the proposal was in unison with the nature of the universe.

In addition, Stephen Hawking studied and contributed ideas to the field of astronomy including cosmic inflation, the density matrix of the universe, quantum cosmology, string theory and more. He has been awarded more than 15 awards due to his contributions to this science.

Thomas Gold


Born: May 22, 1920 in Vienna, Austria
Died: Jun 22, 2004 (at age 84) in Ithaca, New York
Nationality: Austrian, British, American
Famous For: Steady state theory, origin of abiogenic petroleum
Awards: John Frederick Lewis Award (1972), Humboldt Prize (1979), Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1985)

Thomas Gold was an astrophysicist and a professor of astronomy. He was also a member of the renowned National Academy of Sciences in the United States and a Fellow of the Royal Society in London. Gold was among three Cambridge scientists who proposed the theory of the steady state of the universe in the year 1950. Thomas’ work crossed scientific and academic boundaries into astronomy, geophysics, aerospace engineering and biophysics.

Gold’s Early Life

Thomas was born in 1920 in Vienna and attended the school at Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz located in Zuoz, Switzerland. He finished his schooling in 1938 and entered Trinity College in 1939 to study mechanical sciences. He graduated with a degree in 1942. Gold worked as an agricultural lumberjack and laborer in England. He later joined Fred Hoyle and Bondi on a naval research into ground clutter neat Dunsfold.

Thomas Gold’s Career Highlights

Gold and his friends spent their off duty hours in discussion on topics like mathematics, cosmology, and astrophysics. In a matter of months, Gold was put in charge of construction of new radar systems. He determined how the landing of craft could make use of radar in its navigation to a good landing spot on the D-Day. He discovered that the navy from Germany fitted snorkels to the U-Boats, hence making them operational underwater while getting air from the surface above.

Contribution to Astronomy

Thomas Gold sparked a controversy when he said that the surface of the moon was covered by a fine powder. In 1969, he was vindicated when the Apollo 11 group brought samples of lunar soil back to earth for research. Analysis proved that the soil was powder and each grain was layered by a thin metal coating which was caused by the penetration of wind. Gold designed the stereo camera which was carried to the lunar surfaces by the astronauts from the US.

Another theory by Gold that was believed to be true was his theory of pulsars. It stated that astronomical objects produce regular pulses of radio waves. He suggested that pulsars are actually neutron stars which emit these radio waves as they spin. His view was ignored at first, but it was later accepted after the finding of one pulsar in Crab Nebula.

Gold as an Author

Thomas Gold wrote a book in 1998 entitled The Deep Hot Biosphere. In this book, he stated that coal and oil are not remainders of an ancient life which became buried and underwent high pressures and temperatures. He argued that these deposits were produced from hydrocarbons dating to when the earth was created.

He further stated that the volatile gases migrated to the top of the earth through the cracks in the crust and leaked into the atmosphere either as methane or became trapped in the sub surface and became oil, coal, or tar after they lost hydrogen.

Gold’s Personal Life

Thomas Gold received several honors for the work he completed during his lifetime. He also served in the President’s Advisory Committee of Science. He had two marriages; the first one with Merle and the second one with Carvel. He had four daughters form both marriages. Thomas Gold died of heart disease in 2004. He was age 84.