Physics in Perspective

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 300–334 | Cite as

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

  • Victor S. AlpherEmail author


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 



I am most indebted to my father, Ralph Alpher, and to Robert Herman for sharing with me their views on their work and its history. My mother, Louise Ellen (Simons) Alpher, was also supportive of my work. I thank Dwight E. (Ed) Neuenschwander (Southern Nazarene University) and Marcelo Gleiser (Dartmouth College) for encouraging me to publish my recollections and views of my father’s work, Stephen G. Brush (University of Maryland) for his help and interest in my work, and Robert W. Wilson, Virginia Trimble, and Bev Orndorff (former science writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch) for their insights related to my paper. For their support and encouragement, I also thank James Van Allen, Donald White, James Comly, Janie Schwartz, Phillip Kosky, Christine Bogert, Ivar Giaever, Gerard J. Connors, William P. Henry, III, James R. Hay (Captain, USN, Retired), Maurice (“Mike”) Rindskopf (Rear Admiral, USN-Retired, d. July 27, 2011), Juliya Borschevskaya, Anthony J. Johnson, Dudley Primeaux, Mary Jane Valachovic, and Elizabeth Hammerle. I thank Christy Costlow (M.A., University of Texas at Austin) for her archival and organizational work), and Kevin D. Miller and C. Jay Lyons (Lieutenant Colonel, USAF, Retired) for reading drafts of my paper. I deeply appreciate the help of Joe Anderson, Melanie Brown, and Stephanie Jankowski of the American Institute of Physics Niels Bohr Library and Archives, and Judith Theodori and Catherine Hudson of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Library, Molly White (University of Texas Physics Mathematics Astronomy Library), and Allyson Raines (University of Maryland Archives). Finally, I thank Roger H. Stuewer for his meticulous and thoroughgoing editorial work on my paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AustinUSA

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