MURRAY HILL, N.J. – Nobel Laureate Arno A. Penzias, Vice President and Chief Scientist of Bell Labs, the research and development arm of Lucent Technologies, is retiring after 37 years with the company.
Penzias and his Bell Labs colleague, Robert Wilson, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978 for their discovery of faint background radiation emanating from the "Big Bang" that is believed to have touched off the creation of the universe some 18 billion years ago.
In his latest role as Lucent's chief scientist, Penzias prowled California's Silicon Valley and other high technology enclaves, seeking out promising technology and catalyzing its application for the benefit of Lucent and its customers.
Penzias will continue to work as a technology advisor to Lucent and to venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates from his home in San Francisco. He will also continue to serve on the boards of half a dozen small and medium-sized companies.
"We're glad Arno will remain a consultant to Lucent Technologies," said Dan Stanzione, President of Bell Labs and Chief Operating Officer of Lucent. "Arno has always focused his eyes on the future and his mind on what we could do to make the world a richer, more satisfying, more humane place. His vision of a world made stronger through imaginative uses of communications networks is part of our heritage and our dreams for Lucent Technologies."
Penzias began his career at Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J., in 1961, using the company's unique radio astronomy, radio transmission and satellite communications facilities to complete observations for his Ph.D. in physics, which he received from Columbia University in 1962. In his early years as a member of technical staff, Penzias took part in the pioneering Echo and Telstar communications satellite experiments.
In 1965 Penzias and radio astronomer Robert Wilson, who joined Bell Labs in 1963, discovered evidence that a faint signal pervaded all of space. No matter what direction they pointed their horn-shaped antenna perched atop Holmdel's Crawford Hill, the signal – three degrees above absolute zero – persisted. The signal never wavered from day-to-day, season-to-season, thus marking itself as unique.
Because the signal was so faint and pervasive, the two scientists believed the noise could have come from any number of sources, including the antenna itself. Disturbed by this puzzling cosmic effect, Penzias discussed the findings with a physicist in Boston, who told him of the work of Princeton physicist Robert H. Dicke on the "Big Bang Theory" of the origin of the universe. Soon after, Dicke came to Bell Labs for a first-hand look at the horn antenna, and for a discussion with Penzias and Wilson of what proved to be the first direct experimental verification of the Big Bang Theory.
Penzias, Wilson and their Bell Labs co-worker Keith Jefferts discovered the existence of deuterium (heavy hydrogen) in outer space in 1973, providing additional clues to the birth of the universe. Prior receiving the Nobel Prize, Penzias and Wilson received the National Academy of Sciences Henry Draper Medal in 1977 for outstanding original investigations in astronomical physics.
Penzias rose rapidly in the ranks of management at Bell Labs. He was promoted to supervisor in 1969. In 1972, he became head of Radio Physics Research and, in 1976, director of the Radio Research Laboratory. In 1978, the same year he and Wilson received the Nobel Prize, Penzias was named executive director of the Communications Sciences Research Division. In 1981 he was appointed Vice President of Research. In 1995, Penzias became Vice President and Chief Scientist of AT&T Bell Laboratories, a position he maintained in 1996 when Bell Labs became the R&D arm of the AT&T spinoff, Lucent Technologies. Penzias has been affiliated with more than 25 organizations and academic institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He was the first American to be awarded an honorary doctoral degree in 1976 from the Paris Observatory, a 309-year-old institution founded by King Louis XIV and recently chartered as a French university. Since then, Penzias has been awarded more than 20 honorary degrees.
Penzias has served as vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Scientists, an organization devoted to working for the political freedom of scientists in countries where that freedom is endangered.
Penzias has written more than 100 scientific papers, two books, two science fiction stories, and numerous technical and business articles. His highly acclaimed book, Ideas and Information, examined the impact of information technology on business and society. A recent book, Harmony, envisions machines working in harmony with each other, with people and with the natural environment. The books led to his induction into the Literary Hall of Fame, founded in 1976 at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). His recent patents include: auction-based selection of telecommunications carriers; participant tracking in a telephone conference call; remote card games using ordinary playing cards; a computer-based transportation system; fraud prevention in calling cards; identifying telephone extensions in a residence environment, and doubly encrypted identity verification.
Lucent Technologies (LU) designs, builds, and delivers a wide range of public and private networks, communications systems and software, consumer and business telephone systems and microelectronics components. Bell Labs is the research and development arm of the company. For more information about Lucent Technologies, headquartered at Murray Hill, N.J., visit the company's website at http://www.lucent.com.
The above story is based on materials provided by Bell Labs - Lucent Technologies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Cite This Page: