Berkeley Lab Research News banner Berkeley Lab logo
May 1, 2008

Berkeley Lab Astrophysicist and Nobel Laureate George Smoot Elected to National Academy of Sciences

BERKELEY, CA – George Smoot, an astrophysicist and Nobel Laureate who holds joint appointments with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the nation’s highest honors for a scientist. He is one of 72 new members and 18 foreign associates to enter a private scientific organization that was established in 1863 under President Lincoln for the “furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare.” Smoot’s election to the academy brings the total number of Berkeley Lab NAS members to 61, or approximately three-percent of the total membership.

George F. Smoot image spacer image
George F. Smoot

Smoot shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics with NASA scientist John Mather "for discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.” The award was based on their experimental results from NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, which were published in 1992 and provided the first substantial experimental evidence for the Big Bang theory of cosmology.

Smoot has been an astrophysicist at Berkeley Lab since 1974 and a UC Berkeley physics professor since 1994. On May 1, 1992, at a meeting of the American Physical Society, he made an announcement that essentially silenced all the scientific critics of the Big Bang theory and helped change the course of future investigations into the origin and evolution of the universe.After analyzing hundreds of millions of precision measurements in data gathered from an experiment aboard the COBE satellite, Smoot and his research team produced maps of the cosmic microwave background that showed “hot" and "cold" regions with temperature differences of a hundred-thousandth of a degree. These temperature fluctuations, produced when the universe was smaller than a single proton, were consistent with Big Bang predictions and are believed to be the primordial seeds from which grew our present universe.

Most recently, Smoot has been involved in the creation of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics (BCCP), a joint Berkeley Lab-UC Berkeley research, education and public outreach effort that focuses on understanding the origin and evolution of the universe. Smoot serves as BCCP’s director. He is also involved in the Planck and SNAP missions. The Planck mission is the third generation mission to exploit the cosmic microwave background fluctuations discovered by Smoot and his team. SNAP is a mission to understand the Dark Energy causing the current expansion of the Universe to accelerate.

Smoot was born on February 20, 1945 in Yukon, Florida. His father was a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey and his mother was a science teacher and school principal. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he earned B.S. degrees in mathematics and physics in 1966, and received his Ph.D. in physics 1970. Although his doctoral thesis was on the decay of subatomic particles, Smoot jumped to the field of cosmology for his research because he saw it as a frontier of fundamental science ripe for exploration.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at

Additional Information