COOPERMADE: Nobel Prize in Physics


In 1974 Russell Hulse, a physics graduate student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, traveled to the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to conduct research using its 1,000-foot radio telescope. Just four years earlier, he had graduated from The Cooper Union with a degree in physics, although he had first considered electrical engineering having been fascinated with radio waves and astronomy since childhood. At Cooper he worked with a computer for the first time, an IBM 1620. He used instruction manuals to teach himself its language, FORTRAN, programming the computer to simulate planets' orbits.  

His training at Cooper—along with his attempts to build amateur radio telescopes as a teenager— put him in good stead for collaborating with his advisor Joseph Taylor Jr. at the Arecibo lab where the two became the first to discover a binary pulsar, a celestial system in which two pulsars—magnetized, rotating stars—orbit one other. It proved to be a highly significant find: the binary pulsar provided what was then the only evidence confirming Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves. In 1993, Hulse and Taylor were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery. 

In a biographical sketch he wrote for the Nobel Foundation, Russell described his interest in science as one that “has never been so much a matter of pursuing a career per se, but rather an expression of my personal fascination with knowing ‘How the World Works,’ especially as it could be understood directly with hands-on experience.”  



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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.