The history of the universe in a nutshell, from the Big Bang to now, and on to the future – John Mather will tell the story of how we got here, how the Universe began with a Big Bang, how it could have produced an Earth where sentient beings can live and how those beings are discovering their history.

Mather, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, will present a public lecture entitled “History of the Universe from the Beginning to the End,” at West Virginia University at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21 in Ming Hsieh Hall, Room G21. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“The Department of Physics is honored to welcome such a prominent and distinguished scholar,” said chair Earl Scime. “Dr. Mather’s work has answered key questions about the origins of our universe. His lecture is a profound and exciting opportunity for our department, and the state of West Virginia.”

Mather was project scientist for NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, which measured the spectrum of the heat radiation from the Big Bang, discovered hot and cold spots in that radiation, and hunted for the first objects that formed after the great explosion. These hot and cold spots are related to the gravitational field in the early universe, only instants after the Big Bang, and are the seeds for the giant clusters of galaxies that stretch hundreds of millions of light years across the universe.

He will explain Einstein’s biggest mistake, how Edwin Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe, how the COBE mission was built, and how the COBE data support the Big Bang Theory. He will also show NASA’s plans for the next great telescope in space, the James Webb Space Telescope. It will look even farther back in time than the Hubble Space Telescope, and will peer inside the dusty cocoons where stars and planets are being born today. It is capable of examining Earth-like planets around other stars using the transit technique, and future missions may find signs of life.

Mather joined the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to head the COBE Mission as project scientist. He has been a Goddard Fellow since 1994 and currently serves as senior project scientist and chair of the Science Working Group of the James Webb Space Telescope Mission. He is also working on the SAFIR, SPECS, GEST and WISE missions.

In addition to the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, Mather’s awards include the John C. Lindsay Memorial Award, National Air and Space Museum Trophy, AIAA Space Science Award, Aviation Week and Space Technology Laurels for Space/Missiles, Dannie Heinemann Prize for Astrophysics, Rumford Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, and membership in the National Academy of Sciences. He has been elected to the American Astronomical Society Council.

For more information about the event, contact Maura McLaughlin, PhD, associate professor of physics at



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