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John N. Bahcall

John N. Bahcall
Born December 30, 1934(1934-12-30)
Shreveport, Louisiana
Died August 17, 2005 (aged 70)
Nationality American
Fields astrophysics
Institutions Institute for Advanced Study
Known for solar neutrino problem
Hubble Space Telescope

John Norris Bahcall (December 30, 1934 – August 17, 2005) was an American astrophysicist, best known for his contributions to the solar neutrino problem, the development of the Hubble Space Telescope and for his leadership and development of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Contents

Early and family life

Bahcall was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He did not take science classes at high school, and was state tennis champion and a national debate champion. Bahcall started his university career at Louisiana State University as a philosophy student on a tennis scholarship, and considered becoming a rabbi. He moved to the University of California, Berkeley, still studying philosophy. He took his first physics class a graduation requirement.

He was married to Princeton University astrophysics professor Neta Bahcall, whom he met as a graduate student at the Weizmann Institute in the 1960s. They had a daughter and two sons. He died in New York from a rare blood disorder.

Academic career

He graduated with an A.B. in Physics from Berkeley in 1956, obtained his M.S. in physics in 1957 from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard in 1961. He became a research fellow in physics at Indiana University in 1960 and worked at the California Institute of Technology from 1962 to 1970, where he worked alongside Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, and William Fowler.

He was appointed professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1971. He became a member of the National Academy of Science in 1976. He was president of the American Astronomical Society from 1990-1992, and was president-elect of the American Physical Society at the date of his death.

Bahcall is best known for his work in establishing the Standard Solar Model. He spent much of his life pursuing the solar neutrino problem with physical chemist Raymond Davis, Jr. Together, Davis and Bahcall collaborated on the Homestake Experiment, creating an underground detector for neutrinos in a South Dakota gold mine (essentially a very large tank filled with cleaning fluid). The flux of neutrinos found by the detector was 1/3 the amount predicted by Bahcall, a discrepancy that took over 30 years to resolve. The 2002 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Davis and Masatoshi Koshiba for their pioneering work in observing the neutrinos predicted from Bahcall's solar model.

Bahcall's other great contribution was the development and implementation of the Hubble Telescope, alongside Lyman Spitzer, Jr from the 1970s through to the period after the telescope was launched in 1990. In 1992, he received NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal for this work.

He also worked in many other areas: the standard model of a galaxy, with a massive black hole surrounded by stars, is known as the Bahcall-Wolf model; the Bahcall-Soneira model was for many years the standard model for the structure of the Milky Way; and he contributed to accurate models of stellar interiors. All together Bahcall published over 600 scientific papers and five books in the field of astrophysics.

Honors

Quotes

  • "I know all about neutrinos, and my friend here knows about everything else in astrophysics". --- Bahcall's standard phrase on introducing himself and a colleague to a new acquaintance

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

John Bahcall.jpg

John Norris Bahcall (December 30, 1934August 17, 2005) was an American astrophysicist, best known for his contributions to the solar neutrino problem, the development of the Hubble Space Telescope and for his leadership and development of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Sourced

  • Every time we get slapped down, we can say, Thank you Mother Nature, because it means we're about to learn something important.
    • (March 6 1995). "UNRAVELING UNIVERSE. Is the cosmos younger than the stars it contains? Was Einstein's biggest blunder not a mistake? Here's why cosmology is in chaos". Time 145: 84.

External links

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