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David Wilkinson
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David Wilkinson
(1935 - 2002)
Professior of Physics, Princeton University
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NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe was named in David's honor.

"David Wilkinson was a hero to those who knew and worked with him -- the sort of expert who could fairly claim to have made all the mistakes and yet learned from them; but he led by example and inspiration more than by detailed instruction. Dave was passionate about measurements, and he knew how easily Nature could fool our eager selves, so he was the ingenious skeptic who would not accept the quick and easy answer. He was sure that diligent inquiry was going to pay off with important discoveries, and his students and colleagues absorbed that attitude. It served them well, for they went many places and did wonderful things themselves."

-Excerpt from "National Academy of Sciences: David Todd Wilkinson: A Biographical Memoir" (PDF, 267 KB)


NASA renamed an orbiting satellite, called the Microwave Anisotropy Probe, in honor of David T. Wilkinson, a pioneer in physics and cosmology, who died in September 2002.

The re-christened Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), launched in June 2001, observes the oldest light in the universe, called the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Patterns imprinted in this light, approximately 400,000 years after the big bang, reveal details about the age of the universe, the era of first starlight, and other key properties.

Wilkinson, a professor at Princeton University, N.J., was instrumental in defining CMB research from the days of its discovery in 1964 to his work as the WMAP Instrument Scientist, 38 years later. Both WMAP and its predecessor, the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), owe their existence in no small part to Wilkinson, whose decades' long research, enthusiasm, and tireless efforts played a major role in bringing these missions to life.

"Dave was a man of great integrity, an outstanding scientist, and a wonderful colleague," said Dr. Charles L. Bennett, WMAP Principal Investigator from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "He loved to do science and he loved to teach science. As a teacher he was inspiring. As a scientist he set high standards and served as the conscience of the field," he said.

-Excerpt from Press Release: "NASA Renames Satellite in Honor of Pioneering Researcher"

Last Updated: 3 January 2013


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Last Updated: 3 Jan 2013