William H. Press

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This article is about an astrophysicist. For US executive, see William Hans Press. For Olympic wrestler, see William J. Press. For talk show host, see Bill Press.
William H. Press
WilliamHPress1980.jpg
William H. Press (1980 photo)
Born (1948-05-23) May 23, 1948 (age 66)
New York City
Fields theoretical physics
astrophysics
computer science
Institutions Harvard University
Los Alamos National Laboratory
University of Texas at Austin
Alma mater Harvard, A.B. (1969)
Caltech, Ph.D. (1973)
Doctoral advisor Kip Thorne
Doctoral students David Spergel
Adam Riess
Known for Press–Schechter formalism
Numerical Recipes

William H. Press (born May 23, 1948) is an astrophysicist, theoretical physicist, and computational biologist. He is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Other honors include the 1981 Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy.[1]

In April, 2009, President Obama named Press as a member of his President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).[2] In February, 2012, he became the 165th President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[3]

Press attended public schools in Pasadena, California, graduating from Pasadena High School in 1965. His undergraduate education was at Harvard, where he received an A.B. in physics in 1969. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics, from Caltech, in 1973, a student of Kip Stephen Thorne. Press was briefly an assistant professor at Caltech, then was assistant professor at Princeton University (1974–1976) before returning to Harvard as a professor in 1976. At the age of 28, he was the university's then-youngest tenured faculty member (a distinction earlier held by Alan Dershowitz and later by Lawrence Summers and—at age 26—Noam Elkies).[4]

Press was for more than 20 years a professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard University, and a member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He was department chair in Astronomy in 1982-1985. In 1998, Press left Harvard to become deputy laboratory director at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), serving under Directors John C. Browne and George Peter Nanos.[5] He oversaw LANL's participation in the Joint Genome Institute and in the construction of the Spallation Neutron Source. Press moved to the University of Texas at Austin in 2007 and, changing his area of research, became the Warren J. and Viola M. Raymer Professor, jointly in the computer science and integrative biology departments.

In the field of general relativity, Press is best known for his work with Saul Teukolsky, establishing the dynamic stability of rotating black holes.[6] In astrophysics, Press is best known for his discovery, with Paul Schechter, of the Press–Schechter formalism, which predicts the distribution of masses of galaxies in the Universe;[7] and for his work with Adam Riess and Robert Kirshner on the calibration of distant supernovas as "standard candles". This latter work enabled[8][9] the discovery of the accelerating universe by Riess, Brian Schmidt, and Saul Perlmutter, for which they received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Press is a co-author of the successful Numerical Recipes series of books on scientific computing.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://aas.org/prizes/warner
  2. ^ http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Announces-Members-of-Science-and-Technology-Advisory-Council/
  3. ^ http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2011/03012011_elex.shtml
  4. ^ Ravi Vakil, "The Youngest Tenured Professor in Harvard History", Math Horizons, September 1998, at http://mathdl.maa.org/images/upload_library/22/Evans/september_1998_8.pdf
  5. ^ Summary Biography Information on William H. Press, February 2007, Los Alamos National Laboratory
  6. ^ Thorne, K.S. (1994) Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-03505-6), p. 535
  7. ^ Press, W.H. & Schechter, P. (1974) Astrophysical Journal, vol. 187, p. 425
  8. ^ Riess, A.G. (2006) "My Path to the Accelerating Universe", Shaw Prize Lecture at http://www.stsci.edu/~ariess/documents/Shaw%20Prize%20Lecture_web.pdf
  9. ^ Riess, A.G. (2011) "Nobel Lecture: Supernovae Reveal an Accelerating Universe". Nobelprize.org.

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