2007 – Kip Thorne

Kip Thorne was cofounder of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project, with which he is still associated. He is a member of the LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) International Science Team.

He received his B.S. degree from Caltech in 1962 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1965. He returned to Caltech as an Associate professor in 1967 and became Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1970, The William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor in 1981, and The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1991. Thorne’s research has focused on Einstein’s general theory of relativity and on astrophysics, with emphasis on relativistic stars, black holes and especially gravitational waves.

Thorne was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972, the National Academy of Sciences in 1973, and the Russian Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society in 1999. He has been awarded the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, the Karl Schwarzschild Medal of the German Astronomical Society and the Common Wealth Award for Science, and was named California Scientist of the Year in 2004. For his book for nonscientists, Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy (Norton Publishers 1994), Thorne was awarded the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, the Phi Beta Kappa Science Writing Award, and the (Russian) Priroda Readers’ Choice Award. In 1973 Thorne coauthored the textbook Gravitation, from which most of the present generation of scientists have learned general relativity theory. Approximately 50 physicists have received the PhD at Caltech under Thorne’s personal mentorship.

Public Lecture: The Warped Side of the Universe: from the big bang to black holes and gravitational waves

Technical Talk: LIGO: The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory