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BHI Colloquium

Monday, December 11, 2023
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

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Send Me News from BHI

BHI Colloquium

Clifford Will


Title: The renaissance of general relativity

Abstract: Einstein completed his monumental theory of General Relativity in 1915, and four years later became an international science superstar when astronomers announced that the Sun’s gravity bent light rays in agreement with his theory. Yet within a decade, interest and research in the theory declined, and by the late 1950s, people did not consider general relativity a suitable topic for a serious scientist to pursue. But within 20 years it had been reborn and had become one of the hottest fields of physics, with astronomers, particle physicists and experimentalists, once disdainful of the theory, now joining the fun. In this talk, I describe what happened to cause this renaissance, culminating in the stunning 1979 announcement by Joe Taylor of the detection of the inspiral of the orbit of the Binary Pulsar, caused by gravitational wave emission. I caught this rising relativistic wave in 1969 as a new student in Kip Thorne’s group at Caltech, and I will pepper the talk with personal experiences and encounters with many of the people who aided this rebirth.

Bio: Clifford Martin Will is Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Florida, Chercheur Associé at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, and the James S. McDonnell Professor of Space Sciences Emeritus at Washington University in St. Louis. Born in Hamilton, Canada in 1946, he obtained a B.Sc. in Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics from McMaster University in 1968. In 1971, he obtained a Ph.D. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology.  He was an Enrico Fermi Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago from 1972 to 1974, and from 1974 to 1981 was Assistant Professor of Physics at Stanford University. In 1981 he joined Washington University in St. Louis as Associate Professor, in 1985 became Professor of Physics, from 1991 to 1996 and 1997 to 2002 served as Chairman, and from 2005 to 2012 was McDonnell Professor. He was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2007. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1989, of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002, and of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation in 2016.  In 1996, he was named Distinguished Alumnus in the Sciences by McMaster University, and in 2013 he was awarded the degree Doctor of Science honoris causa by the University of Guelph, Canada.  In 2019, he was awarded the Albert Einstein Medal by the Albert Einstein Society in Bern, Switzerland, and in 2021 received the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society (with Saul Teukolsky). In addition to research articles, he has authored four books, Theory and Experiment in Gravitational Physics(Cambridge University Press, 1981; 2nd Edition, 2018);  Was Einstein Right? (Basic Books, 1986);  Gravity: Newtonian, post-Newtonian, Relativistic, with Eric Poisson (Cambridge University Press, 2014); and Is Einstein Still Right? Black holes, gravitational waves, and the quest to verify Einstein’s greatest creation, with Nicolás Yunes (Oxford University Press, 2020). Was Einstein Right? won the 1987 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, was selected one of the 200 best books for 1986 by the New York Times Book Review, and was translated into French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Korean, Greek, Persian, and Chinese. His research interests are theoretical, encompassing the observational and astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, including gravitational radiation, black holes, the physics of curved spacetime, and the theoretical interpretation of experimental tests of general relativity.


Monday, December 11, 2023 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM


BHI Publication

Expanding Sgr A* dynamical imaging capabilities with an African extension to the Event Horizon Telescope

April 1, 2023
Kantzas, D.; Markoff, S.; Lucchini, M.; Ceccobello, C.; Chatterjee, K.
Astrophysical jets are relativistic outflows that remain collimated for remarkably many orders of magnitude. Despite decades of research, the…
Read The BHI Publication