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Lyman Spitzer

Lyman Strong Spitzer, Jr. (June 26, 1914 – March 31, 1997) was an American theoretical physicist.

He was born in Toledo, Ohio. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1931, received his BA from Yale University in 1935, and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1938, where he was advised by Henry Norris Russell. He is one of the key figures of 20th century physics, who helped lay down the fundamentals of the physics of plasmas and the astrophysics of the interstellar medium. He founded the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and in 1946, he envisioned what would eventually become the Hubble Space Telescope. One of his more famous students was George Field. Spitzer died in Princeton, New Jersey.

The NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is named after him. It studies the infrared sky from an Earth trailing orbit.

Fusion Research

Project Matterhorn was RPI's pioneering program in controlled thermonuclear research. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission recommended (according to the declassified minutes of a meeting held on July 26, 1951) to grant him $50,000 to perform “research in the area in which Dr. Richter had claimed success.” See [1] [2] and article on the Huemul Project. Source: US DOE Archives, 326 US Atomic Energy Commission, Collection: AEC Meetings, Box: Minutes, Meeting No 582, 10:30 AM, Thursday, July 26, 1951.



* Henry Norris Russell Lectureship in 1953

* Bruce Medal in 1973

* Henry Draper Medal in 1974

* James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics in 1975

* Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1978

* National Medal of Science in 1979

* Crafoord Prize in 1985

Named after him

* Asteroid 2160 Spitzer

* Spitzer Space Telescope


* NASA biography

* Papers by Lyman Spitzer at the Princeton University Library


Astronomy Encyclopedia

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