Press Release

JHU: Astrophysicis Charles Bennett Wins 2006 Harvey Prize

By SpaceRef Editor
September 20, 2006
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Johns Hopkins University astrophysicist Charles L. Bennett has been awarded the 2006 Harvey Prize, given annually by the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology for breakthroughs in science and technology, human health or peace.

Bennett, a professor since 2005 in the university’s Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy, will receive the prestigious prize Jan. 25 at the Technion, a premier science and technology university in Haifa, Israel. He is the second Johns Hopkins faculty member to win the award since it was established in 1972.

Bennett is being honored for significantly contributing to knowledge of cosmology through pioneering measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background. Initial groundbreaking work using NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer satellite was followed by his leadership of NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe project, which led to the precise determination of the age, composition and curvature of the universe.

The Harvey Prize is given without regard to nationality, race, religion or sex, and consists of a cash award of $75,000 and the opportunity to lecture at the Technion. Ten Harvey Prize winners have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The prize honors the late Leo M. Harvey of Los Angeles, who, through hard work and creativity, rose from origins as the son of a small Lithuanian factory owner to become head of the international Harvey Aluminum Co., which provided metal alloys to the aerospace industry.

Bennett said he is honored to be associated with Harvey’s legacy.

“I am very grateful to my wonderful colleagues; it continues to be a great pleasure to work together with them to advance our knowledge of the universe,” Bennett said. “I also thank my family for their love and support.”

Bennett and his team made international news in 2003, when they announced their determination of the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years. They also calculated the makeup of the universe as 73 percent dark energy, 23 percent dark matter and 4 percent ordinary matter. The dark energy and dark matter remain mysteries to this day, so Bennett is leading a new effort to determine the nature of the dark energy.

In March 2006, Bennett’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe team announced that the universe bears signs that it expanded from quantum fluctuations to astronomical size within its first trillionth of a second of existence. The finding, based on data from WMAP, supports a 20-year-old theory known as “inflation,” which describes how the cosmos grew suddenly from the subatomic to a vast expanse of stars and galaxies.

Bennett was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and was named winner that year of the academy’s Henry Draper Medal, given once every four years to an honoree who has made significant contributions to astronomical physics. The third Draper Medal was awarded in 1890 to Henry Rowland, for whom Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is named.

Bennett’s Harvey Prize comes five years after the first awarded to a Johns Hopkins scientist. In 2001, Bert Vogelstein, Clayton Professor of Oncology and Pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, won in recognition of his research establishing a detailed genetic model of colorectal cancer.

Related Web links: Bennett’s Web site: http://cosmos.pha.jhu.edu/bennett/ Harvey Prize/Technion Web site: http://www.admin.technion.ac.il/harvey/

Color photos of Bennett are available. Contact Lisa De Nike at Lde@jhu.edu or by calling 1-443-287-9960.

SpaceRef staff editor.