Nobel Physicist Joseph Taylor to Deliver 2009 Maurer Distinguished Lecture

Monday, March 16, 2009
Nobel Laureate Joseph Taylor

Nobel Laureate Joseph Taylor

FAYETTEVILLE, AR — Nobel Laureate Joseph Taylor will speak on “Binary Pulsars and Relativistic Gravity” as the 2009 Robert D. Maurer Distinguished Lecturer. The lecture series, sponsored by the department of physics in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, is named after alumnus Dr. Robert D. Maurer, co-inventor of the first telecommunications-grade optical fiber.

This 13th annual Maurer Distinguished Lecture is especially timely and appropriate for celebrating the International Year of Astronomy. It will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 2, in the Donald W. Reynolds Center. A reception will follow. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Pulsars are neutron stars — extremely dense, strongly magnetized, rapidly spinning remnants of supernova explosions. They also appear to be nature’s most precise clocks. Discovery of the first orbiting pulsar opened a new subfield of astrophysics in which the relativistic nature of gravity is tested through precise comparisons of “pulsar time” with atomic time on Earth. Among other results, the experiments have furnished persuasive proof of the existence of gravity waves, as Einstein predicted, a discovery important to both astrophysics and the study of gravity.

For his discovery of the first binary pulsar, Taylor shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics with Russell Hulse.

Taylor earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, with honors, from Haverford College in 1963, and a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard University in 1968. He taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, from 1968 to 1980, and since then in the physics department at  Princeton University, where he became the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics Emeritus.

His research focus is radio astronomy, especially the study of pulsars and their applications to experimental gravitation. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, the Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, the Einstein Prize of the Albert Einstein Society, and the Wolf Prize in Physics.

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