Barry Barish

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Barry C. Barish
Born (1936-01-27) January 27, 1936 (age 78)
Nationality United States
Fields Physics
Institutions Caltech
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley

Barry C. Barish (born January 27, 1936) is an American experimental physicist. He is a Linde Professor of Physics, emeritus at California Institute of Technology. He is a leading expert on gravitational waves.

Birth and Education[edit]

Barry C. Barish was born in Omaha, Nebraska, grew up in southern California, and attended high school in Los Angeles. He earned his B.A. in physics (1957) and his Ph.D. in experimental high energy physics (1962) at the University of California, Berkeley. He joined Caltech in 1963 as part of a new experimental effort in particle physics using frontier particle accelerators at the national laboratories.


Among Prof. Barish's noteworthy experiments were those performed at Fermilab using high-energy neutrino collisions to reveal the quark substructure of the nucleon. These experiments were among the first to observe the weak neutral current, a linchpin of the electroweak unification theories of Glashow, Salam, and Weinberg.

In the 1980s, Barish initiated an ambitious international effort to build a sophisticated underground detector to search for the magnetic monopole and solve other problems in the emerging area of particle astrophysics. Experiments conducted underground in the Gran Sasso Tunnel in Italy provided some of the key evidence that neutrinos have mass. In 1991, Barish was named the Maxine and Ronald Linde Professor of Physics at Caltech. In 1994, Prof. Barish became principal investigator of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project and served as Director of the LIGO Laboratory from 1997 to 2005, leading a team of scientists who have built two large facilities being used for detection and study of gravitational waves from astrophysical sources. The detectors are precision suspended mass laser interferometers that monitor motions of test masses separated by four kilometer baselines with a precision of 10–18 meter. The experiment has already set the best limits on most candidate sources at levels that are becoming astrophysically interesting. The interferometry technique works very well and a major upgrade is now underway to improve the sensitivity by more than an order of magnitude.

Barry Barish is former Director of the [Global Design Effort][1] for the International Linear Collider (ILC)[2] and Linde Professor of Physics, Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology. The ILC is the highest priority future project for particle physics worldwide, as it promises to complement the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in exploring the TeV energy scale. This ambitious effort is being uniquely coordinated worldwide, representing a major step in international collaborations going from conception to design to implementation for large scale projects in physics.

From 2001 to 2002, Prof. Barish served as co-chair of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel subpanel that developed a long-range plan[3] for U.S. high energy physics. He has chaired the Commission of Particles and Fields and the U.S. Liaison committee to the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP). In 2002 he chaired the NRC Board of Physics and Astronomy Neutrino Facilities Assessment Committee. Report "Neutrinos and Beyond".

Honors and Awards[edit]

Barish has been elected to:

In 2002, he received the Klopsteg Award[4] of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Prof. Barish was honored by the University of Bologna (2006)[5] and University of Florida ( 2007) where he received honorary doctorates. In 2007, delivered the Van Vleck lectures[6] at the University of Minnesota. The University of Glasgow honored Prof. Barish with an honorary degree of science in 2013.