Andrew E. Lange

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Andrew E. Lange (July 23, 1957 – January 22, 2010)[1] was an astrophysicist and Goldberger Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Lange came to Caltech in 1993 and was most recently the chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. Caltech's president Jean-Lou Chameau called him "a truly great physicist and astronomer who had made seminal discoveries in observational cosmology".[2]

Early life

Lange was born in Urbana, Illinois.[1] Lange received his BA in physics from Princeton University in 1980, and the PhD in physics from University of California, Berkeley in 1987. He arrived at Caltech in 1993-1994 as a visiting associate, and was appointed Full Professor in 1994. He was appointed Goldberger professor in 2001, and senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2006.[3]

Observations of the cosmic microwave background

Lange's research interests focused on the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) and instrumentation for its study. The CMB is believed to be the light of the Big Bang, red-shifted from the visible into the sub-millimeter range by the cosmic expansion in the intervening 13.7 billion years. He developed a new generation of radio receivers for this study, and used them in a string of experiments to study the CMB.

The BOOMERANG Telescope being readied for launch

In 1987 a Japanese-American team led by Lange, Paul Richards of UC Berkeley, and Toshio Matsumoto of Nagoya University announced that the spectrum CMB was not that of a true black body. In a sounding rocket experiment they detected an excess brightness at wavelengths of 0.5 and 0.7 mm. This result cast doubt on the validity of the Big Bang theory in general and helped support the rival Steady State theory. However, the final announcement (in April 1992) of the spectrum by FIRAS on the COBE satellite showed a perfect fit of the CMB and the theoretical curve for a black body at a temperature of 2.73 K, removing the earlier apparent contradiction with the standard cosmological model.

Later he was Principal Investigator on the BOOMERanG balloon experiment which, in a 1998 flight, strongly confirmed the geometrical flatness of the universe to high precision, strongly supporting the theory of cosmic inflation.[4] More recently he has been a US leader in a collaboration on the European Planck spacecraft, launched in May 2006, for studying the CMB, and in the effect of gravitational waves on the polarization of the CMB.

Prizes and awards

In 2003 Lange and Dr. Saul Perlmutter of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley were jointly named "California Scientists of the Year" by the California ScienCenter.[5] Lange was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and 2004 was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in physics. In 2006 he shared the Balzan Prize in observational astronomy and astrophysics with Paolo de Bernardis of Italy. In 2009 he was awarded the Dan David prize [in astrophysics] for his contributions to our understanding of the History of the Universe.


Andrew Lange checked into a hotel on January 21, 2010. The next morning housekeepers found him dead, apparently from asphyxiation, according to Detective Lt. John Dewar of the Pasadena Police Department. "It appears to be a suicide," Dewar said.[6]


  1. ^ a b Janette Williams, Andrew Lange, noted universe researcher at Caltech, dies Pasadena Star-News. Retrieved on January 26, 2010.
  2. ^ Jean-Lou Chameau, in a letter to the Caltech Community, Jan 22, 2010.
  3. ^ Caltech Press release, January 23, 2010.
  4. ^ "Balloon Sounds out the Early Universe", Science News, Vol 157, No 18, p. 276, April 28, 2000.
  5. ^ "Andrew Lange, Ph.D. and Saul Perlmutter, Ph.D. 2003 California Scientists of the Year"
  6. ^ Andrew Lange, Caltech physicist who explored remnants of Big Bang, has died at 52 Los Angeles Times, Associated Press story. Retrieved on January 26, 2010.