Notable Ivy League Contributors to the Understanding of the Universe

The top tier whose focus has been physics.  Some with a Noble Prize award.  All are of my generation plus or minus a few years.  It seems a new crop of outstanding physicists is in the doldrums.

Gerard K. O’Neill


Gerard K. O’Neill

Gerard K. O’Neill in 1977
Born February 6, 1927(1927-02-06)
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died April 27, 1992(1992-04-27) (aged 65)
Redwood City, California, USA
Nationality American
Fields Physicist
Alma mater Cornell University
Known for Particle physics
Space Studies Institute
O’Neill cylinder

Gerard Kitchen O’Neill (February 6, 1927 – April 27, 1992) was an American physicist and space activist. As a faculty member of Princeton University, he invented a device called the particle storage ring for high-energy physics experiments. Later, he invented a magnetic launcher called the mass driver.[1] In the 1970s, he developed a plan to build human settlements in outer space, including a space habitat design known as the O’Neill cylinder. He founded the Space Studies Institute, an organization devoted to funding research into space manufacturing and colonization.

O’Neill began researching high-energy particle physics at Princeton in 1954 after he received his doctorate from Cornell University. Two years later, he published his theory for a particle storage ring. This invention allowed particle physics experiments at much higher energies than had previously been possible. In 1965 at Stanford University, he performed the first colliding beam physics experiment.[2]

While teaching physics at Princeton, O’Neill became interested in the possibility that humans could live in outer space. He researched and proposed a futuristic idea for human settlement in space, the O’Neill cylinder, in “The Colonization of Space”, his first paper on the subject. He held a conference on space manufacturing at Princeton in 1975. Many who became post-Apollo-era space activists attended. O’Neill built his first mass driver prototype with professor Henry Kolm in 1976. He considered mass drivers critical for extracting the mineral resources of the Moon and asteroids. His award-winning book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space inspired a generation of space exploration advocates. He died of leukemia in 1992.


Jeremiah P. Ostriker



Jeremiah (Jerry) Paul Ostriker (born 1937) is an astrophysicist at Princeton University.[1] He received his B.A. from Harvard, his Ph.D at the University of Chicago, and then carried out post-doctoral work at the University of Cambridge. From 1971 to 1995, Ostriker was a professor at Princeton, and served as Provost there from 1995 to 2001. From 2001 to 2003, he was appointed as Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge. He has since returned to Princeton. [2]

Ostriker has been very influential in advancing the theory that most of the mass in the universe is not visible at all, but consists of dark matter. Ostriker’s research has also focused on the interstellar medium.

He married noted poet and essayist Alicia Ostriker in 1959.

Recent publications

  • New Light on Dark Matter, Science, 300, pp 1909-1914 (2003)
  • The Probability Distribution Function of Light in the Universe: Results from Hydrodynamic Simulations, Astrophysical Journal 597, 1 (2003)
  • Cosmic Mach Number as a Function of Overdensity and Galaxy Age, Astrophysical Journal, 553, 513 (2001)
  • Collisional Dark Matter and the Origin of Massive Black Holes, Physical Review Letters, 84, 5258-5260 (2000).
  • Hydrodynamics of Accretion onto Black Holes, Adv. Space Res., 7, 951-960 (1998).


Jim Peebles

Phillip James Edwin Peebles
Born April 25, 1935 (1935-04-25) (age 76)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Fields Theoretical physics
Physical cosmology
Institutions Princeton University
Alma mater University of Manitoba (B.Sc.)
Princeton University (Ph.D.)
Known for Cosmic microwave background radiation
Notable awards Eddington Medal (1981)
Heineman Prize (1982)
Bruce Medal (1995)
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1998)
Gruber Prize
Harvey Prize (2001)
Shaw Prize (2004)
Crafoord Prize (2005)

Phillip James Edwin Peebles (born April 25, 1935) is a CanadianAmerican physicist and theoretical cosmologist who is currently the Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus of Science at Princeton University.[1][2] Peebles was born in Winnipeg and completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Manitoba. He completed his doctorate at Princeton University.


Joseph Hooton Taylor, Jr.



Joseph Hooton Taylor, Jr.

Born 29 March 1941 (1941-03-29) (age 70)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Nationality United States
Fields Physics
Institutions Princeton University
University of Massachusetts
Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory
Alma mater Haverford College
Harvard University
Known for Pulsars
Notable awards Henry Draper Medal (1985)
John J. Carty Award (1991)
Wolf Prize in Physics (1992)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1993)

Joseph Hooton Taylor, Jr. (born March 29, 1941) is an American astrophysicist and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate for his discovery with Russell Alan Hulse of a “new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation.”


Daniel C. Tsui

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Daniel C. Tsui
Born February 28, 1939 (1939-02-28) (age 72)
Henan, China
Residence New Jersey, USA
Nationality United States
Fields Experimental physics
Electrical engineering
Institutions Princeton University
Bell Laboratories
Alma mater University of Chicago (PhD)
Augustana College (BSc)
Known for Quantum Hall effect
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1998)

Daniel Chee Tsui (Chinese: 崔琦; pinyin: Cuī Qí, born February 28, 1939, Henan Province, China) is a Chinese-born American physicist whose areas of research included electrical properties of thin films and microstructures of semiconductors and solid-state physics. He was previously the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University and adjunct senior research scientist in the Department of Physics at Columbia University, where he was a visiting professor from 2006 to 2008. Currently, he is a research professor at Boston University. In 1998, along with Horst L. Störmer of Columbia and Robert Laughlin of Stanford, Tsui was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect.



Tsui was born in Fan Village (范庄), about 7,5 kilometers from Baofeng, Henan Province, and his parents were both farmers. When he was born, China was full of natural disasters and wars. He studied Chinese classics in a school in the village.

Tsui left for Hong Kong in 1951, and attended Pui Ching Middle School in Kowloon, where he graduated in 1957. He was admitted to the National Taiwan University Medical School in Taipei, Taiwan. Tsui was given a full scholarship to the Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, United States, which is his church pastor’s Lutheran alma mater.

Tsui accepted the latter, and moved to the United States in 1958. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Augustana College in 1961. Tsui was the only student of Chinese descent in his college. Tsui continued his study in physics in University of Chicago, where he received his PhD in physics in 1967. Tsui did a year of postdoctoral research at Chicago. In 1968, Tsui joined Bell Laboratories where he was a pioneer in the study of two-dimensional electrons.

His discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect, the work for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize, occurred shortly before he was appointed Professor of Electrical Engineering at Princeton in 1982.

Honors and awards

Tsui is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Engineering (2004 election), a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Physical Society. In 1992, Tsui was elected Academician of Academia Sinica, Taipei. In June 2000, Tsui was elected Foreign Member of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.

Tsui also was awarded several prestigious prizes, including:

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