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David Nathaniel Spergel (born March 25, 1961), is an American theoretical astrophysicist and Princeton University professor known for his work on the WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) mission. Spergel is a MacArthur Fellow. He is a member of the NASA Advisory Council and is chair of the Space Studies Board. He was once the W.M. Keck distinguished visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He was part of the team that originated the WMAP mission and designed the spacecraft, and has worked on deciphering the data that it beams back from space. Spergel is playing a leading role in developing the WFIRST (Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope), a multibillion-dollar space mission planned for launch in the mid-2020s. Spergel is the Charles A Young Professor of Astronomy and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Spergel is the Founding Director of the Center for Computational Astrophysics. He shared the 2010 Shaw Prize in astronomy with Charles L. Bennett and Lyman Alexander Page, Jr. for their work on WMAP. He shared the 2015 Dannie Heineman Prize with Marc Kamionkowski "for their outstanding contributions to the investigation of the fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background that have led to major breakthroughs in our understanding of the universe".[1]


Spergel was born in Rochester, New York, and attended John Glenn High School in Huntington, New York. He obtained a bachelor's degree in Astronomy (summa cum laude) from Princeton University in 1982, and was a visiting scholar at Oxford University in 1983. He obtained his master's degree (Astronomy) at Harvard University, 1984, and his doctorate (Astronomy), Harvard University, 1985, with a thesis entitled Astrophysical Implications of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.[2]


His interests range from the search for planets around nearby stars to the shape of the universe. The WMAP Satellite has been the main focus of his research.[3] His WMAP papers are currently[when?] the #1 and #2 most cited new papers in all of physics[4] and space science.[5] WMAP was successfully launched on June 30, 2001. He is also interested in understanding how galaxies form and evolve. Spergel's thesis work was on dark matter and he has recently returned to this field, exploring the possibility that the dark matter might be more complex than previously imagined. In 2000, Spergel and his Princeton colleague Paul Steinhardt introduced the concept of strongly self-interacting dark matter (SIDM).[6] Spergel is among a group of scientists and engineers at Princeton University who are developing new technologies attempting to enable the direct imaging of earth-like planets around nearby stars.


Spergel's thesis students include Julianne Dalcanton, Arlie Petters, Joseph Hennawi and Shirley Ho.[7] Jo Dunkley was a postdoctoral researcher in his lab.

Personal lifeEdit

Spergel is an avid bicyclist and skier.[original research?] He has taken sabbaticals in France and Chile.

Awards and honorsEdit

Spergel was named one of Nature's ten "people who mattered" of 2014 on December 18, 2014, along with Maryam Mirzakhani, Radhika Nagpal, and others.[8] He was awarded the Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy in 1994.[9] For 2018 he received the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.[10]


  1. ^ "New Jersey Astrophysicist David Spergel Wins 2015 Dannie Heineman Prize". 16 January 2015.
  2. ^ Michael D. Lemonick (2003). Echo of the Big Bang. Princeton UP. pp. 75–77. ISBN 978-0691102788.
  3. ^ Billy Goodman, "Big Days for the Big Bang" (2002). Princeton Alumni Weekly. p. 441ff.
  4. ^ "IU Webmaster redirect".
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-10-17. Retrieved 2006-10-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Spergel, D.N.; Steinhardt, P.J. (2000). "Observational Evidence for Self-Interacting Cold Dark Matter". Phys. Rev. Lett. 84 (17): 3760–3763. arXiv:astro-ph/9909386. Bibcode:2000PhRvL..84.3760S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.84.3760. PMID 11019199.
  7. ^ David Spergel at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  8. ^ Gibney, E.; Leford, H.; Lok, C.; Hayden, E.C.; Cowen, R.; Klarreich, E.; Reardon, S.; Padma, T.V.; Cyranoski, D.; Callaway, E. (December 18, 2014), "Nature's 10 Ten people who mattered this year.", Nature, 516 (7531): 311–319, Bibcode:2014Natur.516..311., doi:10.1038/516311a, PMID 25519114
  9. ^ "David N. Spergel received the Helen B. Warner Prize 1994 of the American Astronomical Society.", Physics Today, 47 (12): X75, 1994, Bibcode:1994PhT....47X..75., doi:10.1063/1.2808582
  10. ^ Laureates 2018

Further readingEdit

  • Billy Goodman, "Big Days for the Big Bang," Princeton Alumni Weekly (2002) pp 441ff online
  • Current Biography Yearbook (H. W. Wilson Company, 2005) Volume 66 pp 535–36.

External linksEdit