Physics in Perspective

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 300-334

First online:

Ralph A. Alpher, Robert C. Herman, and the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation

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Much of the literature on the history of the prediction and discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) is incorrect in some respects. I focus on the early history of the CMBR, from its prediction in 1948 to its measurement in 1964, basing my discussion on the published literature, the private papers of Ralph A. Alpher, and interviews with several of the major figures involved in the prediction and measurement of the CMBR. I show that the early prediction of the CMBR continues to be widely misunderstood.


Ralph A. Alpher Robert C. Herman George Gamow Hans A. Bethe Luis J. Boya Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Robert H. Dicke Andrei G. Doroshkevich Martin O. Harwit Fred Hoyle Harold I. Ewen John C. Mather Igor D. Novikov P. James E. Peebles Anro A. Penzias Edward M. Purcell George F. Smoot Rashid Sunyaev Merle A. Tuve Steven Weinberg Robert W. Wilson Yakov B. Zel’dovich George Washington University Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Department of Terrestrial Magnetism Carnegie Institution Princeton University National Bureau of Standards Naval Research Laboratory U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance Philosophical Society of Washington Washington Academy of Sciences Washington Conferences on Theoretical Physics General Electric Corporate Research and Development Center General Motors Research Laboratory Union College University of Texas at Austin Nobel Prize in Physics Dicke radiometer Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation Cosmic Microwave Background Explorer steady-state cosmology big bang cosmology ylem bolometer