The Boston Globe’s annual Bostonian of the Year award bestowed an honorable mention on Rainer Weiss ’55, PhD ’62 for his work in the detection and observation of gravitational waves.
“The 85-year-old professor emeritus conceived and shepherded a set of observatories that allowed scientists to prove Einstein’s assertion about gravitational waves: accelerating objects send ripples cascading through the universe at light speed,” the Globe wrote on December 13.
The Globe article chronicles Weiss’ half-century of research in gravitational waves, which culminated in the discovery of waves formed from the collision of two neutron stars, and the collision’s immediate aftermath, a burst of cosmic fireworks known as a kilonova.
Weiss’ Bostonian of the Year nomination was not the only citation he received in 2017. Earlier this year, Weiss was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics for “decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.” He is the 36th MIT graduate to win a Nobel Prize and the 13th alum to win the award in physics.
Weiss was also not the only alum who received a Nobel Prize in 2016, nor was he the only alum to be named to a year-end list. Michael Rosbash PhD ’71 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and multiple alumni, including European Central Bank President Mario Draghi PhD ’77 and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu ’75, ’76, were named to Forbes’ most recent World’s Most Powerful list.
And while no MIT alumni were nominated for Time’s Person of the Year in 2017, the Institute has a long history with the award. A group of MIT-connected CRISP scientists were nominated in 2016 for their research in potentially correcting mutations in the human genome to treat genetic causes of disease. And six alumni have won Time’s award in the past, including geneticist Pardis Sabeti ’97, who was part of a group that combatted the spread of the Ebola virus in 2014:
- Pardis Sabeti ’97 (2014), geneticist and Harvard University professor who was part of a group that combatted the spread of the Ebola virus.
- Ben Bernanke PhD ’79 (2009), Federal Reserve Chairman who oversaw the Reserve’s response to the global financial crisis. [Read Bernanke’s 2006 MIT Commencement address.]
- Dr. David Ho (1996), 1978 graduate of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, CEO and director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. [Read Ho’s 1998 MIT Commencement address.]
- American Scientists (1960), which included Charles Stark Draper ’26, SM ’28, ScD ’38; William Shockley PhD ’36; Robert Woodward ’36, PhD ’37; and former professor and provost Charles Hard Townes