Joseph Weber

Joseph Weber ( born May 17, 1919 in Paterson, New Jersey; † 30 September 2000 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) was an American physicist, well known pioneer of gravitational wave experiments, and one of the pioneers of the laser.


Weber's parents were actually Gerber ( and Joseph Weber originally Jonas ), but migrated with an incorrect visa in the name of Weber in the U.S. a. His father came from Lithuania, his mother from Latvia.

Life and work

Weber graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. After his participation in the Second World War, in which Weber served in the Navy he taught and conducted research at the University of Maryland at College Park. In 1948 he became a professor of electrical engineering, but began to study physics, in 1951, he was a PhD ( The microwave inversion spectrum of ammonia) at the same time at the Catholic University of America. In 1961 he became professor of physics at the University of Maryland. He retired in 1989.

Weber made ​​important contributions to the field of laser technology; he recognized the maser principle before Gordon, pointers, and Charles Townes and carried about 1952 and 1953 before. He discussed the maser principle but only as an amplifier and did not try to build a maser. In addition, his proposal, as the population inversion should be achieved was not very practical. In recognition of this achievement, he became in 1958 a Fellow of the IRE ( Institute of Radio Engineers ) and received in 1958 the price of the Washington Academy of Science. In 1955 he is at the Institute for Advanced Study and deals with general theory of relativity, which he in 1956 by John Archibald Wheeler listens in Leiden, where it comes with Charles Misner and Wheeler discussions about gravitational waves. In the 1960s, he developed the first gravitational wave detectors.

Weber was convinced with its detectors, which consisted of large aluminum metal cylinders with bonded piezoelectric elements and which he built in 1960, having established gravitational waves. In the 1960s, he caused so great a sensation. In 1969 he reported the detection of a gravitational wave from a coincidence measurement of detectors in Maryland and Argonne National Laboratory ( 1000 km distance ). However, since its results could not be replicated by other researchers, his experimental results are controversial. In particular, Richard Garwin Weber's experiments in the 1970s strongly criticized. ( To have, for example, he said coincidences of gravitational wave measurements with neutrino measurements from the supernova 1987A and in the 1990s with GRBs found) Weber continued his experiments, although continued by his colleagues but the impression was strengthened that no significant results with the Weberian method were achieved.

However, Weber has the merit of having done research on gravitational waves popular.

He was married in second marriage with the astronomer Virginia Trimble since 1973. From his first marriage with Anita Straus ( she died in 1971 ) he had four sons.

In 1972 he was awarded the Boris Pregel Award and the 1970 Sigma Xi Award and the Babson Award of the Gravity Research Foundation. In 1959 he received the first prize of the Gravity Research Foundation. 1955 to 1956 and 1962 to 1963 he was Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Scholar in 1963. In 1988, he was inducted into the Maryland Engineering Hall of Fame.

Virginia Trimble donated the first awarded in 2002 Joseph Weber Award from the American Astronomical Society for progress in astronomical instrument.


  • General Relativity and Gravitational Waves, Interscience 1961
  • Detection and Generation of Gravitational Waves, Physical Review, Bd.117, 1960, p.306