Biography:Jim Peebles

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Short description: Canadian-American astrophysicist and cosmologist
Jim Peebles

Jim Peebles 2010.jpg
Peebles in 2010
Phillip James Edwin Peebles

(1935-04-25) April 25, 1935 (age 88)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
NationalityCanadian, American
EducationUniversity of Manitoba (BS)
Princeton University (MS, PhD)
Known forCosmic microwave background radiation
Cosmic infrared background
Cold dark matter
Lyman-alpha emitter
Primordial isocurvature baryon model
Ostriker–Peebles criterion
Alison Peebles (m. 1958)
AwardsEddington Medal (1981)
Heineman Prize (1982)
Bruce Medal (1995)
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1998)
Gruber Prize (2000)
Harvey Prize (2001)
Shaw Prize (2004)
Crafoord Prize (2005)
Dirac Medal (2013)
Order of Manitoba (2017)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2019)
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical physics
Physical cosmology
InstitutionsPrinceton University
Institute for Advanced Study
ThesisObservational tests and theoretical problems relating to the conjecture that the strength of the electromagnetic interaction may be variable (1962)
Doctoral advisorRobert Dicke
Doctoral students
  • Margaret J. Geller
  • Stuart L. Shapiro

Phillip James Edwin Peebles CC OM FRS (born April 25, 1935) is a Canadian-American astrophysicist, astronomer, and theoretical cosmologist who is currently the Albert Einstein Professor in Science, emeritus, at Princeton University.[1][2] He is widely regarded as one of the world's leading theoretical cosmologists in the period since 1970, with major theoretical contributions to primordial nucleosynthesis, dark matter, the cosmic microwave background, and structure formation.

Peebles was awarded half of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2019 for his theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology.[3] He shared the prize with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for their discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star.[4][5][6] While much of his work relates to the development of the universe from its first few seconds, he is more skeptical about what we can know about the very beginning, and stated, "It's very unfortunate that one thinks of the beginning whereas in fact, we have no good theory of such a thing as the beginning."[7]

Peebles has described himself as a convinced agnostic.[8]

Early life

Peebles was born on April 25, 1935, in St. Vital in present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada , the son of Ada Marion (Green), a homemaker, and Andrew Charles Peebles, who worked for the Winnipeg Grain Exchange.[9] He completed his bachelor of science at the University of Manitoba. He then went on to pursue graduate studies at Princeton University, where he received his PhD in physics in 1962, completing a doctoral dissertation titled "Observational Tests and Theoretical Problems Relating to the Conjecture That the Strength of the Electromagnetic Interaction May Be Variable" under the supervision of Robert Dicke.[10] He remained at Princeton for his whole career. Peebles was a Member in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study during the academic year 1977–78; he made subsequent visits during 1990–91 and 1998–99.[11]

Academic career

Most of Peebles' work since 1964 has been in the field of physical cosmology to determine the origins of the universe. In 1964, there was very little interest in this field and it was considered a "dead end" but Peebles remained committed to studying it.[12] Peebles has made many important contributions to the Big Bang model. With Dicke and others (nearly two decades after George Gamow, Ralph A. Alpher and Robert C. Herman), Peebles predicted the cosmic microwave background radiation. Along with making major contributions to Big Bang nucleosynthesis, dark matter, and dark energy, he was the leading pioneer in the theory of cosmic structure formation in the 1970s. Long before it was considered a serious, quantitative branch of physics, Peebles was studying physical cosmology and has done much to establish its respectability.[13] Peebles said, "It was not a single step, some critical discovery that suddenly made cosmology relevant but the field gradually emerged through a number of experimental observations. Clearly one of the most important during my career was the detection of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation that immediately attracted attention [...] both experimentalists interested in measuring the properties of this radiation and theorists, who joined in analyzing the implications".[14] His Shaw Prize citation states "He laid the foundations for almost all modern investigations in cosmology, both theoretical and observational, transforming a highly speculative field into a precision science."[15]

Peebles has a long record of innovating the basic ideas, which would be extensively studied later by other scientists. For instance, in 1987, he proposed the primordial isocurvature baryon model for the development of the early universe.[16] Similarly, Peebles contributed to establishing the dark matter problem in the early 1970s.[17][18] Peebles is also known for the Ostriker–Peebles criterion, relating to the stability of galactic formation.[19]

Peebles' body of work was recognized with him being named a 2019 Nobel Laureate in Physics, "for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology"; Peebles shared half the prize with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz who had been the first to discover an exoplanet around a main sequence star.[20]

Peebles was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1988.[21][22]


  • Fellow of the American Physical Society (1964)[23]
  • Eddington Medal (1981)[24]
  • Heineman Prize (1982)[25]
  • Fellow of the Royal Society (1982)[26]
  • Henry Norris Russell Lectureship (1993)[24]
  • Bruce Medal (1995)[27]
  • Oskar Klein Medal (1997)[28]
  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1998)[29]
  • Gruber Prize in Cosmology (2000), with Allan Sandage[30]
  • Harvey Prize (2001)[31]
  • Shaw Prize (2004)[32]
  • Member of the American Philosophical Society (2004)[33]
  • Crafoord Prize with James E. Gunn and Martin Rees (2005)[34]
  • Hitchcock Professorship (2006)[35]
  • Dirac Medal (2013)[36]
  • Member of the Order of Manitoba (2017)[37]
  • Nobel Prize in Physics (2019)[38]
  • Elected a Legacy Fellow of the American Astronomical Society in 2020.[39]

Named after him


  • Peebles, P. J. E. (1980). Large-Scale Structure of the Universe. Princeton University Press.
  • Peebles, P. J. E. (1992). Quantum Mechanics (1st Printing ed.). Princeton University Press.
  • Peebles, P. J. E. (1993). Principles of Physical Cosmology (n ed.). Princeton University Press.
  • Peebles, J. P. E. (2009). Finding the Big Bang (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  • Peebles, P. J. E. (2020). Cosmology’s Century. Princeton University Press.
  • Peebles, P. J. E. (2022). The Whole Truth. Princeton University Press.[41]



  1. "Princeton University Physics Department". 
  2. "Princeton University News". 
  3. Hooper, Dan (October 12, 2019). "A Well-Deserved Physics Nobel - Jim Peebles' award honors modern cosmological theory at last". Scientific American. 
  4. "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2019". Nobel Media AB. 
  5. Chang, Kenneth; Specia, Megan (October 8, 2019). "Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Cosmic Discoveries - The cosmologist James Peebles split the prize with the astrophysicists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, for work the Nobel judges said "transformed our ideas about the cosmos."". The New York Times. 
  6. Kaplan, Sarah (8 October 2019). "Nobel Prize in physics awarded for research on exoplanets and the structure of the universe". Washington Post. 
  7. Couronne, Ivan (November 14, 2019). "Top cosmologist's lonely battle against 'Big Bang' theory". 
  8. "Jim Peebles - Session II" (in en). 2015-04-01. 
  9. Narins, Brigham, ed (2001). Notable Scientists from 1900 to the Present. 4 (N–S) (2 ed.). Gale Group. ISBN 9780787617554. 
  10. Peebles, Phillip James Edwin (1962). Observational tests and theoretical problems relating to the conjecture that the strength of the electromagnetic interaction may be variable (PhD thesis). Princeton University. OCLC 83718695 – via ProQuest.
  11. "Phillip James E. Peebles". 
  12. Garlinghouse, Tom (October 8, 2019). "A 'joy ride' of a career: Peebles wins Nobel Prize in Physics for tackling big questions about the universe". Princeton University. 
  13. "General Relativity's Influence and Mysteries" (in en). December 10, 2015. 
  14. "Interview with James Peebles" (in en). 
  15. "Announcement-The Shaw Laureate in Astronomy 2004". Shaw Foundation. 
  16. Hu (June 28, 1994)
  17. de Swart, J. G.; Bertone, G.; van Dongen, J. (2017). "How dark matter came to matter". Nature Astronomy 1 (3): 0059. doi:10.1038/s41550-017-0059. 0059. Bibcode2017NatAs...1E..59D. 
  18. de Swart, Jaco (2020). "Closing in on the Cosmos: Cosmology's Rebirth and the Rise of the Dark Matter Problem". The Renaissance of General Relativity in Context. Einstein Studies. 16. Birkhäuser, Cham. pp. 257–284. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-50754-1_8. ISBN 978-3-030-50754-1. 
  19. Binney, James; Tremaine, Scott (1987) (in en). Galactic Dynamics. Princeton University Press. pp. 374. ISBN 9780691084459. 
  20. Chang, Kenneth; Specia, Megan (October 8, 2019). "Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Studies of Earth's Place in the Universe". The New York Times. 
  21. "P. James E. Peebles" (in en). 
  22. "P. James E. Peebles". 
  23. "APS Fellow Archive". 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Weintraub, David A. (2011) (in en). How Old Is the Universe?. Princeton University Press. p. 317. ISBN 9780691147314. Retrieved October 8, 2019. 
  25. "Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics | American Astronomical Society". 
  26. "Phillip Peebles biography". Royal Society. 
  27. "The Bruce Medalists". 
  28. "Earlier Lectures - Oskar Klein Centre". 
  29. Williams, D. A. (June 1, 1999). "Prof. P J E Peebles: 1998 Gold Medal" (in en). pp. 3.6–a–3.6. doi:10.1093/astrog/ 
  30. "2000 Gruber Cosmology Prize | Gruber Foundation". 
  31. "Princeton Announcements, June 2001 - Archived". 
  32. "The Shaw Prize - Top prizes for astronomy, life science and mathematics". 
  33. "American Philosophical Society Member History". 
  34. "The Crafoord Prize 2005". January 26, 2005. 
  35. "Charles M. and Martha Hitchcock Lectures | Series | Berkeley Graduate Lectures". 
  36. "FACULTY AWARD: Peebles awarded 2013 Dirac Medal for work in theoretical physics" (in en). 
  37. "12 Manitobans to receive province's highest honour this summer". May 12, 2017. 
  38. "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2019". Nobel Media AB. 
  39. "AAS Fellows". AAS. 
  40. "Asteroid (18242) Peebles". Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. April 30, 2012. 
  41. PUP. "Phillip James Edwin Peebles Books | List of books by author Phillip James Edwin Peebles" (in en). 

External links