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Post Info TOPIC: Ralph Asher Alpher


L

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RE: Ralph Asher Alpher
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Consider the story of Ralph Alpher, who died this year at age 86. He was a theoretical physicist, known as the "forgotten father of the Big Bang." His papers, part of his doctoral dissertation and published in 1948, showed how to find evidence for the explosive origin of our universe: the uneven distribution of hydrogen and helium, and a residual background radiation. Few believed him, no one looked. Only in 1965 did radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discover the radiation as a pesky hiss in their radio equipment, but they didn't realize the significance of what they'd discovered until physicists at Princeton told them. Guess who won the Nobel Prize?

In 1999 Alpher spoke of the ache of being ignored: "Was I hurt?" he said. "Yes! How the hell did they think I'd feel? I was miffed at the time that they'd never even invited us down to see the damned radio telescope."

One month before he died, he was awarded the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony. He was too ill to attend.

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L

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Ralph Asher Alpher, 86, a physicist whose doctoral dissertation provided a feasible formula for the scientific idea of the big bang but whose work was forgotten until after other scientists won the Nobel Prize for the same idea, died of respiratory failure Aug. 12 at an acute care facility in Austin.

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