Jim Peebles

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Jim Peebles

Jim Peebles 2010.jpg
Peebles in 2010
Phillip James Edwin Peebles

(1935-04-25) April 25, 1935 (age 86)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
NationalityCanadian, American
Education University of Manitoba (BS)
Princeton University (MS, PhD)
Known for Cosmic microwave background radiation
Cosmic infrared background
Cold dark matter
Lyman-alpha emitter
Primordial isocurvature baryon model
Ostriker–Peebles criterion
Awards Eddington Medal (1981)
Heineman Prize (1982)
Bruce Medal (1995)
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1998)
Gruber Prize (2000)
Harvey Prize (2001)
Shaw Prize (2004)
Crafoord Prize (2005)
Dirac Medal (2013)
Order of Manitoba (2017)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2019)
Scientific career
Fields Theoretical physics
Physical cosmology
Institutions Princeton University
Institute for Advanced Study
Thesis Observational tests and theoretical problems relating to the conjecture that the strength of the electromagnetic interaction may be variable  (1962)
Doctoral advisor Robert Dicke
Doctoral students

Phillip James Edwin Peebles CC OM FRS (born April 25, 1935) is a Canadian-American astrophysicist, astronomer, and theoretical cosmologist who is currently the Albert Einstein Professor of Science, Emeritus, at Princeton University. [1] [2] He is widely regarded as one of the world's leading theoretical cosmologists in the period since 1970, with major theoretical contributions to primordial nucleosynthesis, dark matter, the cosmic microwave background, and structure formation.


Peebles was awarded half of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2019 for his theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology. [3] He shared the prize with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for their discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star. [4] [5] [6] While much of his work relates to the development of the universe from its first few seconds, he is more skeptical about what we can know about the very beginning, and stated, "It's very unfortunate that one thinks of the beginning whereas in fact, we have no good theory of such a thing as the beginning." [7]

Peebles has described himself as a convinced agnostic. [8]

Early life

Peebles was born on April 25, 1935 in St. Boniface, in present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the son of Ada Marion (Green), a homemaker, and Andrew Charles Peebles, who worked for the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. [9] He completed his bachelor of science at the University of Manitoba. He then went on to pursue graduate studies at Princeton University, where he received his Ph.D. in physics in 1962, completing a doctoral dissertation titled "Observational Tests and Theoretical Problems Relating to the Conjecture That the Strength of the Electromagnetic Interaction May Be Variable" under the supervision of Robert Dicke. [10] He remained at Princeton for his whole career. Peebles was a Member in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study during the academic year 1977–78; he made subsequent visits during 1990–91 and 1998–99. [11]

Academic career

Most of Peebles' work since 1964 has been in the field of physical cosmology to determine the origins of the universe. In 1964, there was very little interest in this field and it was considered a "dead end" but Peebles remained committed to studying it. [12] Peebles has made many important contributions to the Big Bang model. With Dicke and others (nearly two decades after George Gamow, Ralph A. Alpher and Robert C. Herman), Peebles predicted the cosmic microwave background radiation. Along with making major contributions to Big Bang nucleosynthesis, dark matter, and dark energy, he was the leading pioneer in the theory of cosmic structure formation in the 1970s. Long before it was considered a serious, quantitative branch of physics, Peebles was studying physical cosmology and has done much to establish its respectability. [13] Peebles said, "It was not a single step, some critical discovery that suddenly made cosmology relevant but the field gradually emerged through a number of experimental observations. Clearly one of the most important during my career was the detection of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation that immediately attracted attention [...] both experimentalists interested in measuring the properties of this radiation and theorists, who joined in analyzing the implications". [14] His Shaw Prize citation states "He laid the foundations for almost all modern investigations in cosmology, both theoretical and observational, transforming a highly speculative field into a precision science." [15]

Peebles has a long record of innovating the basic ideas, which would be extensively studied later by other scientists. For instance, in 1987, he proposed the primordial isocurvature baryon model for the development of the early universe. [16] Similarly, Peebles contributed to establishing the dark matter problem in the early 1970s. [17] [18] Peebles is also known for the Ostriker–Peebles criterion, relating to the stability of galactic formation. [19]

Peebles' body of work was recognized with him being named a 2019 Nobel Laureate in Physics, "for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology"; Peebles shared half the prize with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz who had been the first to discover an exoplanet around a main sequence star. [20]

Peebles was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1988. [21] [22]


Named after him

Selected Publications

Peebles, J. P. E. (2009). Finding the Big Bang (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Peebles, P. J. E. (1980). Large-Scale Structure of the Universe. Princeton University Press.

Peebles, P. J. E. (1992). Quantum Mechanics (1st Printing ed.). Princeton University Press.

Peebles, P. J. E. (1993). Principles of Physical Cosmology (n ed.). Princeton University Press.

Peebles, P. J. E. (2020). Cosmology’s Century. Amsterdam University Press. [41]

Related Research Articles

Big Bang Cosmological model

The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model explaining the existence of the observable universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. The model describes how the universe expanded from an initial state of high density and temperature, and offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of observed phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, and large-scale structure.

Physical cosmology Branch of astronomy

Physical cosmology is a branch of cosmology concerned with the study of cosmological models. A cosmological model, or simply cosmology, provides a description of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and allows study of fundamental questions about its origin, structure, evolution, and ultimate fate. Cosmology as a science originated with the Copernican principle, which implies that celestial bodies obey identical physical laws to those on Earth, and Newtonian mechanics, which first allowed those physical laws to be understood. Physical cosmology, as it is now understood, began with the development in 1915 of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, followed by major observational discoveries in the 1920s: first, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe contains a huge number of external galaxies beyond the Milky Way; then, work by Vesto Slipher and others showed that the universe is expanding. These advances made it possible to speculate about the origin of the universe, and allowed the establishment of the Big Bang theory, by Georges Lemaître, as the leading cosmological model. A few researchers still advocate a handful of alternative cosmologies; however, most cosmologists agree that the Big Bang theory best explains the observations.

Inflation (cosmology) Theory of rapid universe expansion

In physical cosmology, cosmic inflation, cosmological inflation, or just inflation, is a theory of exponential expansion of space in the early universe. The inflationary epoch lasted from 10−36 seconds after the conjectured Big Bang singularity to some time between 10−33 and 10−32 seconds after the singularity. Following the inflationary period, the universe continued to expand, but at a slower rate. The acceleration of this expansion due to dark energy began after the universe was already over 7.7 billion years old.

Cosmic microwave background Electromagnetic radiation as a remnant from an early stage of the universe in Big Bang cosmology

The cosmic microwave background, in Big Bang cosmology, is electromagnetic radiation which is a remnant from an early stage of the universe, also known as "relic radiation". The CMB is faint cosmic background radiation filling all space. It is an important source of data on the early universe because it is the oldest electromagnetic radiation in the universe, dating to the epoch of recombination. With a traditional optical telescope, the space between stars and galaxies is completely dark. However, a sufficiently sensitive radio telescope shows a faint background noise, or glow, almost isotropic, that is not associated with any star, galaxy, or other object. This glow is strongest in the microwave region of the radio spectrum. The accidental discovery of the CMB in 1965 by American radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson was the culmination of work initiated in the 1940s, and earned the discoverers the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Accelerating expansion of the universe

Observations show that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, such that the velocity at which a distant galaxy recedes from the observer is continuously increasing with time.

Plasma cosmology

Plasma cosmology is a non-standard cosmology whose central postulate is that the dynamics of ionized gases and plasmas play important, if not dominant, roles in the physics of the universe beyond the Solar System. In contrast, the current observations and models of cosmologists and astrophysicists explain the formation, development, and evolution of astronomical bodies and large-scale structures in the universe as influenced by gravity and baryonic physics.

Rainer Weiss American physicist

Rainer "Rai" Weiss is an American physicist, known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics. He is a professor of physics emeritus at MIT and an adjunct professor at LSU. He is best known for inventing the laser interferometric technique which is the basic operation of LIGO. He was Chair of the COBE Science Working Group.

Rashid Sunyaev

Rashid Alievich Sunyaev is a Soviet and Russian astrophysicist of Tatar descent. He got his MS degree from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) in 1966. He became a professor at MIPT in 1974. Sunyaev was the head of the High Energy Astrophysics Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and has been chief scientist of the Academy's Space Research Institute since 1992. He has also been a director of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany since 1996, and Maureen and John Hendricks Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton since 2010.

William Alfred Fowler American nuclear physicist (1911–1995)

William Alfred Fowler (August 9, 1911 – March 14, 1995) was an American nuclear physicist, later astrophysicist, who, with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar won the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics. He is known for his theoretical and experimental research into nuclear reactions within stars and the energy elements produced in the process and was one of the authors of the influential B2FH paper.

Cyclic model

A cyclic model is any of several cosmological models in which the universe follows infinite, or indefinite, self-sustaining cycles. For example, the oscillating universe theory briefly considered by Albert Einstein in 1930 theorized a universe following an eternal series of oscillations, each beginning with a Big Bang and ending with a Big Crunch; in the interim, the universe would expand for a period of time before the gravitational attraction of matter causes it to collapse back in and undergo a bounce.

Discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation Aspect of the history of modern physical cosmology

The discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation constitutes a major development in modern physical cosmology. The cosmic background radiation (CMB) was measured by Andrew McKellar in 1941 at an effective temperature of 2.3 K using CN stellar absorption lines observed by W. S. Adams. Theoretical work around 1950 showed the need for a CMB for consistency with the simplest relativistic universe models. In 1964, US physicist Arno Allan Penzias and radio-astronomer Robert Woodrow Wilson rediscovered the CMB, estimating its temperature as 3.5 K, as they experimented with the Holmdel Horn Antenna. The new measurements were accepted as important evidence for a hot early Universe and as evidence against the rival steady state theory. In 1978, Penzias and Wilson were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their joint measurement.

Observational cosmology

Observational cosmology is the study of the structure, the evolution and the origin of the universe through observation, using instruments such as telescopes and cosmic ray detectors.

Robert H. Dicke American astronomer and physicist

Robert Henry Dicke was an American astronomer and physicist who made important contributions to the fields of astrophysics, atomic physics, cosmology and gravity. He was the Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton University (1975–1984).

Paul Steinhardt American theoretical physicist (born 1952)

Paul Joseph Steinhardt is an American theoretical physicist whose principal research is in cosmology and condensed matter physics. He is currently the Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton University where he is on the faculty of both the Departments of Physics and of Astrophysical Sciences.

Ronald Kantowski is a theoretical cosmologist, well known in the field of general relativity as the author, together with Rainer K. Sachs, of the Kantowski–Sachs dust solutions to the Einstein field equation. These are a widely used family of inhomogeneous cosmological models.

Primordial black holes are a hypothetical type of black hole that formed soon after the Big Bang. In the early universe, high densities and heterogeneous conditions could have led sufficiently dense regions to undergo gravitational collapse, forming black holes. Yakov Borisovich Zel'dovich and Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov in 1966 first proposed the existence of such black holes. The theory behind their origins was first studied in depth by Stephen Hawking in 1971. Since primordial black holes did not form from stellar gravitational collapse, their masses can be far below stellar mass (c. 2×1030 kg).

The Hoyle–Narlikar theory of gravity is a Machian and conformal theory of gravity proposed by Fred Hoyle and Jayant Narlikar that originally fits into the quasi steady state model of the universe.

Uroš Seljak

Uroš Seljak is a Slovenian cosmologist and a professor of astronomy and physics at University of California, Berkeley. He is particularly well-known for his research in cosmology and approximate Bayesian statistical methods.

Tsvi Piran

Tsvi Piran is an Israeli theoretical physicist and astrophysicist, best known for his work on Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs) and on numerical relativity. The recipient of the 2019 EMET prize award in Physics and Space Research.

Bharat Ratra

Bharat Vishnu Ratra is an Indian-American physicist, theoretical cosmologist and astroparticle physicist who is currently a university distinguished professor of Physics at Kansas State University.



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