© The Nobel Foundation
Arno Allan Penzias

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Arno Allan Penzias: Nobel Prize in Physics Recipient-1978

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Arno Allan Penzias is an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1978, which he shared with Robert Woodrow Wilson for their discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation. They also shared the Nobel Prize with Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa of the USSR.

He was born on April 26, 1933, in Munich, Germany. His parents decided that the family must leave Germany to escape the Nazi round ups of Jews for the concentration camps. He was six years old when his parent put him and his younger brother on a train for England. His parents arrived later. They sailed to America and arrived in New York City.

Allan and his brother immediately went to school as their parents found work. In 1946, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Alan graduated Brooklyn Technical High School, 1951, and was then admitted to City College of New York, where he received his B.S. in Physics, in 1954. He went to Columbia University and received his M. A. in physics, in 1958, and he continued his studies and received his Ph.D. in physics, in 1962.

Penzias was working at Bell Labs with Robert W. Wilson when they came across excessive radio noise in their radio antenna. After more investigation, they discovered that it was a highly diffuse cosmic radiation left over after the Bing Bang.

When the government broke up AT&T, he was promoted to a vice-president of research. During this time, he was a prolific writer. He wrote more than 100 scientific papers, two books and two science fiction stories.

In 1997, he retired and became a senior technical advisor and spokesperson for Lucent. He also became involved with California’s Silicon Valley industry. He was an advisor and board member of several new small and mid-sized companies.

Arno Alan Penzias received many awards and honors:
● Bell Labs, 1962-1998
● A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
● A member of the Physical Society
● A member of the National Academy of Sciences
● IEEE, 1990

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