Lyman Spitzer (1914-1997)

Professor of Astrophysical Sciences
Project Matterhorn

Lyman Spitzer (1914-1997) earned his doctorate degree from Princeton in 1938. He became chairman of Astrophysical Sciences Department at Princeton in 1947. Spitzer worked with Martin Schwartzchild to transform Princeton's role as a central institution for astronomical research. Nearly a decade before the first orbiting satellite, Spitzer conceived of putting telescopes in space to expand the bredth and clarity of imagery of distant objects. This workinspired the development of the Hubble Space Telescope.

In the 1950s, Spitzer conceived of a process by which fusion power could be created through confining hot, charged plasma gas inside of a magnetic field in a figure-eight shaped device now known as a "stellarator." Spitzer conducted this research classified under Project Matterhorn, as it was housed in the same site where Princeton physicist John Wheeler was conducting research on nuclear weapons. In 1961 Project Matterhorn was transformed into the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory where fusion research occurs to this day.

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