Charles W. Misner

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Charles W. Misner
CharlesMisner2009 01.jpg
Born (1932-06-13) June 13, 1932 (age 90)
Alma materUniversity of Notre Dame
Princeton University
Known forGravitation
Mixmaster universe
Misner space
ADM formalism
AwardsGuggenheim Fellowship[1]
Heineman Prize (1994)
Albert Einstein Medal
Scientific career
FieldsGeneral relativity
InstitutionsPrinceton University
University of Maryland
Doctoral advisorJohn Wheeler
Arnold Ross
Doctoral studentsCarl H. Brans
Richard A. Isaacson
James A. Isenberg
Vincent Moncrief
C. V. Vishveshwara
Misner signature small.jpg

Charles W. Misner (/ˈmɪsnər/; born June 13, 1932) is an American physicist and one of the authors of Gravitation. His specialties include general relativity and cosmology. His work has also provided early foundations for studies of quantum gravity and numerical relativity.


Academic training and university positions[edit]

Misner received his B.S. degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1952. He then moved to Princeton University where he earned an M.A. in 1954 and completed his Ph.D. in 1957. His dissertation, Outline of Feynman Quantization of General Relativity; Derivation of Field Equations; Vanishing of the Hamiltonian, was completed under John Wheeler.

Prior to completing his Ph.D., Misner joined the faculty of the Princeton Physics Department with the rank of Instructor (1956–1959), and was subsequently promoted to assistant professor (1959–1963). In 1963 he moved to the University of Maryland, College Park as an associate professor and achieved full professor status there in 1966. Since 2000, Misner has been Professor Emeritus of Physics, which is part of the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, where he continues to be a member of the Gravitation Theory Group in the Maryland Center for Fundamental Physics. During his career, Misner advised 22 Ph.D. students primarily at Princeton and at the University of Maryland.

Misner has held visiting positions at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (also known as the Albert Einstein Institute); the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara; the Pontifical Academy of Cracow (Poland); the Institute for Physical Problems in Moscow (during the time of the Soviet Union); the California Institute of Technology, the University of Oxford, and the University of Cambridge.


Most of Misner's research falls into the area of general relativity, which describes the gravitational interactions of very massive bodies. He has contributed to the early understanding of cosmology where he was one of the first to point out the horizon problem, the role of topology in general relativity, quantum gravity, and numerical relativity. In the areas of cosmology and topology, he first studied the mixmaster universe, which he devised in an attempt to better understand the dynamics of the early universe, and developed a solution to the Einstein field equation that is now known as Misner space. Together with Richard Arnowitt and Stanley Deser, he published a Hamiltonian formulation of the Einstein equation that split Einstein's unified spacetime back into separated space and time. This set of equations, known as the ADM formalism, plays a role in some attempts to unify quantum mechanics with general relativity. It is also the mathematical starting point for most techniques for numerically solving Einstein's equations.

In 2015 the Albert Einstein Society presented the Albert Einstein Medal to Deser and Misner for their work; Arnowitt had died the previous year. [2]


  • Misner, Charles W.; Kip S. Thorne; John Archibald Wheeler (September 1973). Gravitation. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-0344-0.
  • Misner, Charles W.; Patrick A. Cooney (1991). Spreadsheet Physics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-16410-8.


External links[edit]