Nobel Prize recipient will discuss discoveries of the universe through NASA telescope mission

Nobel Prize Winner Dr. John Mather is the 15th William C. Shaw Memorial Lecturer Photo Credit: NASA/GSFC/Pat Izzo

John Mather, co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 and current senior astrophysicist for NASA, will present the William C. Shaw Lecture.  His talk on Thursday, Sept. 26 will be titled “History of the Universe from the Beginning to End.”

Mather will give three presentations at SIUE during the course of the week: a question and answer session for interested students and a lecture for the public on Thursday, along with a more technical discussion focusing on the James Webb Space Telescope on Wednesday.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Aldemaro Romero, said Mather presenting on campus is a great honor because the scientist has made “important contributions to our understanding of the universe.”

There are not many astrophysicists who have won a Nobel Prize,” Romero said.

Mather was the project scientist of NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite. Through the COBE, he and co-researcher George Smoot measured the spectrum or color of the heat radiation from the Big Bang. They discovered hot and cold spots in that radiation and hunted for the first objects formed after the massive explosion. For such work, they were awarded the Nobel Prize.

In Mather’s public lecture on Sept. 26, he will share his perspective on how the universe began, how it produced the habitable planet Earth, and look at Einstein’s “biggest mistake.” He will also examine the COBE mission and how its collected data supports the Big Bang theory. His talk is a ticketed event, and will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Meridian Ballroom of the Morris University Center.

Mather is NASA’s senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is in the fabrication, assembly and test phase of its development.  It will orbit approximately a million miles from Earth, and will utilize infrared light to study galaxies at all stages of development.  It includes such innovations as a folding, segmented, primary mirror adjusted to shape after launch, ultra-lighted beryllium optics, extremely sensitive detectors to record very faint signals and other features.

Physics Professor Jeffrey Sabby arranged for Mather to be the 15th William C. Shaw Lecturer. William Shaw was a noted SIUE physicist and educator who died in 1977. Previous Shaw Lecturers have included astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Nobel -Laureates Sheldon Glashow and William Fowler, and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. The event is also co-sponsored by SIUE’s Arts & Issues program.

Mather’s technical discussion on the James Webb Space Telescope will take place at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25 in the Maple/Dogwood Room of the Morris University Center. The student question and answer session will take place on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at the same Morris University location; and the Shaw Lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Morris University Center’s Meridian Ballroom.  All students will be admitted free to the Shaw Lecture, but tickets are required. They can be picked up at anytime at the Information Booth in the Morris University Center or between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. at the Fine Arts Box Office. General admission tickets are $15; the cost is $10 for SIUE employees, retirees, alumni and seniors.  Tickets can also be purchased on-line at


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