Arno Allan Penzias, Nobel Prize in Physics 1978

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Arno Allan Penzias, Nobel Prize in Physics 1978

Hebrew: ארנו אלן פנזיאס, Nobel Prize in Physics 1978
Birthplace: Munich, Upper Bavaria, Bavaria, Germany
Death: January 22, 2024 (90)
San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, United States (Complications of Alzheimer's disease)
Immediate Family:

Son of Karl (Karol) Penzias and Justine (Justyna) Penzias
Husband of Private and Private
Father of Private; Private and Private
Brother of Private

Occupation: Nobel Laureate in Physics, Physicist, Nobel Laureat
Managed by: Malka Mysels
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Arno Allan Penzias, Nobel Prize in Physics 1978

Arno Allan Penzias (born 26 April 1933) is an American physicist and Nobel laureate in physics.

Penzias was born in Munich, Germany, the son of Justine (née Eisenreich) and Karl Penzias, who ran a leather business. At age six, he was among the Jewish children evacuated to Britain as part of the Kindertransport rescue operation. Some time later,his parents also fled Nazi Germany for the U.S., and the family settled in the Garment District of New York City in 1940.

Arno Penzias's grandfather was Polish and had 10 children. ie. 4 sons, and 6 daughters. Note: (1 son died in concentration camp ) but most survived and went to England. See Page 185 - The God I Believe in: What Jews Still Believe, By Joshua Haberman"

Arno Penzias's father, Karl, was born in Munich and belonged to the Polish synagogue there. He was either a carpenter or leather broker. He married Justine Eisenreich, also German born.

In 1946, Penzias became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1951 and received a bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1954. From Columbia University, he received his Master's degree in 1958 and his Ph.D. in 1962.

He went on to work at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey, where, with Robert Woodrow Wilson, he worked on ultra-sensitive cryogenic microwave receivers, intended for radio astronomy observations. In 1964, on building their most sensitive antenna/receiver system, the pair encountered radio noise which they could not explain. It was far less energetic than the radiation given off by the Milky Way, and it was isotropic, so they assumed their instrument was subject to interference by terrestrial sources. They tried, and then rejected, the hypothesis that the radio noise emanated from New York City. An examination of the microwave horn antenna showed it was full of pigeon droppings (which Penzias described as "white dielectric material"). After the pair removed the guano buildup, and the pigeons were shot (each physicist says the other ordered the deed), the noise remained. Having rejected all sources of interference, the pair published a paper announcing their findings. This was later identified by Robert Dicke as the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), the radio remnant of the Big Bang. This allowed astronomers to confirm the Big Bang, and to correct many of their previous assumptions about it. 
 Penzias and Wilson stand at the 15 meter Holmdel Horn Antenna that brought their most notable discovery. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1975.[8] Penzias and Wilson received the 1978 Nobel Prize, sharing it with Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa (Kapitsa's work was unrelated to Penzias and Wilson's). In 1977, the two had received the Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences.[9] Penzias is also the recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence. In 1998, he was awarded the IRI Medal from the Industrial Research Institute.

Penzias has been a resident of Highland Park, New Jersey. He has a son, David, and two daughters, Mindy Penzias Dirks, PhD, and Rabbi Shifra (Laurie) Weiss-Penzias. He currently serves as a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates.

  1. 1. ^
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  5. 5. ^ "Arno Allan Penzias". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  6. 6. ^ "Nobel-prize winning accidents". Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  7. 7. ^ Lehrer, Jonah (21 December 2009). "The Neuroscience of Screwing up". Wired (magazine). Archived from the original on 29 December 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
  8. 8. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter P". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  9. 9. ^ "Henry Draper Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  10. 10. ^ Horner, Shirley (3 October 1993). "About Books". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 October 2009.
  11. 11. ^ B Schlessinger, Bernard S. and June H., Who's Who of Nobel Prize Winners, 1901-1990, (Oryx Press, 1991) p. 203
  12. 12. ^ Rabbi Jonathon Klein's Blog, Sept. 22, 2006
  13. 13. ^ Team / Arno Penzias


  • • Wilson, R. W.; Penzias, A. A. (1967). "Isotropy of Cosmic Background Radiation at 4080 Megahertz". Science 156 (3778): 1100–1101. Bibcode 1967Sci...156.1100W. doi:10.1126/science.156.3778.1100. PMID 17774056.
  • • Penzias, A. A.; Wilson, R. W. (1970). "Microwave Noise from Rainstorms". Science 169 (3945): 583–584. Bibcode 1970Sci...169..583P. doi:10.1126/science.169.3945.583. PMID 17746031.
  • • Penzias, Arno A. (1979). "The Origin of the Elements". Science 205 (4406): 549–554. Bibcode 1979Sci...205..549P. doi:10.1126/science.205.4406.549. PMID 17729659.
  • • Penzias, Arno A. (1980). "Nuclear Processing and Isotopes in the Galaxy". Science 208 (4445): 663–669. Bibcode 1980Sci...208..663P. doi:10.1126/science.208.4445.663. PMID 17771085.
  • • Cite Video | BBC/WGBH BOSTON | NOVA #519 | A Whisper From Space | Copyright 1978 | Available With Permission | Consolidated Aircraft - Ronkonkoma, New York


Arno Allan Penzias was born in Munich, Germany on 26 April 1933, the eldest son of Karl and Justine Penzias. Because of the rise of Hitler and their Polish-Jewish decent, the elder Penzias sought ways of getting the family out of Germany. When the British government agreed to accept 10,000 Jewish children on humanitarian grounds, young Arno and his brother were put on the kindertransport. Their parents were able to join them several weeks later. Several months later the family headed for New York City, settling there in early 1940. 
As a child Penzias’ attended public schools in the Bronx, New York. As a teenager, he attended Brooklyn Technical High School, a specialized public school for boys and then matriculated at City College of New York planning to study chemical engineering. However, Penzias abandoned chemistry for physics in his freshman year, and, in 1954, graduated near the top 10% of his class at CCNY. An impressive accomplishment, but well behind most of his fellow physics majors. After graduation, Penzias served for two years as a radar officer in the U.S Army Signal Corps. Penzias’ Army experience helped him obtain a research assistantship in the Columbia University Radiation Laboratory, which was then heavily involved in microwave physics. There, Penzias worked under Charles Townes who would go on to invent the maser, which then inspired creation of the laser. In 1956 Penzias enrolled as a student at Columbia and by 1962 had earned a Ph.D. Shortly after leaving Columbia, Penzias became a full-time member of the Bell Labs technical staff. He conducted research in radio communications and took part in the pioneering Echo and Telstar communications satellite experiments. As a researcher, he focused on radio astronomy, radio transmission, satellite communications, and radio reception. In 1963 Bell Labs hired another radio astronomer, Robert Wilson, who came from the California Institute of Technology. By 1964, Penzias and Wilson were using the most sensitive radio astronomy antenna available to conduct research in radio astronomy and satellite communications. The pair discovered that a faint signal pervaded all space and set out to find what this noise was. Systematically they eliminated different possible sources of the noise and determined that the universe was itself the source. Princeton University physicist Robert H. Dicke who had been the first to propose the idea of "cosmic background radiation" remaining from the initial Big Bang that gave rise to the universe concurred with the findings of Penzias and Wilson. This was a fundamental breakthrough in understanding the origin of the universe and Penzias and Wilson were rewarded with the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics for it. In Penzias' prolific, multi-faceted career, he has written more than 100 scientific papers, two books, two science fiction stories, numerous technical and business articles, and holds more than a dozen patents. In addition to the Nobel Prize, he has garnered many other awards. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering and he and Wilson received the NAS Henry Draper Medal in 1977 for outstanding original investigations in astronomical physics. He was awarded the Herschel Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society, 1977. In addition, Penzias continues to serve as vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Scientists, a national organization devoted to working for the political freedom of scientists in countries where it is endangered.

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Arno Allan Penzias, Nobel Prize in Physics 1978's Timeline

April 26, 1933
Munich, Upper Bavaria, Bavaria, Germany
January 22, 2024
Age 90
San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, United States