Barry C. Barish '57, Ph.D. '63

Alumnus of the Year proves Einstein was right

Barry C. Barish ’57, Ph.D. ’63 says watching ocean waves marked the start of his work on detecting gravitational waves a century after Einstein’s prediction. His research would win him the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shares, as well as Berkeley’s 2018 Alumnus of the Year.

About 25 years ago, Barish and Charles Peck, a fellow eminent physicist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), met for a beach walk. Peck asked Barish, who had already led many important particle physics experiments, including landmark neutrino studies, to take over leadership of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).

The faint signal of gravitational waves was generated 1.3 billion years ago when two black holes merged. That wave reached Earth on September 14, 2015, and was picked up by twin detectors located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. Since then, LIGO has detected several black hole mergers and a binary neutron star merger.

“It’s the beginning of a new astronomy — multi-messenger astronomy, which I believe will lead to an exciting new understanding of our universe in the coming decades and beyond,” Barish says.

He says he met his two loves at Cal: physics and his wife, Samoan. They have two children and three grandchildren. Barish continues to work with fellow physicists at Caltech to make LIGO even more sensitive, as well as develop concepts for next-generation gravitational wave detectors.

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Commencement: A special day Cal students deserve

After years of hard work and personal growth, graduating from college can bring a mix of emotions, from pride and nostalgia to fear and excitement about what lies ahead. It also brings a special day when, at Berkeley, some 5,000 graduates and over 40,000 guests gather for a formal procession, speeches, performances, and more to mark this momentous occasion. 

Barry C. Barish '57, Ph.D. '63

Alumnus of the Year proves Einstein was right

Barry C. Barish ’57, Ph.D. ’63 says watching ocean waves marked the start of his work on detecting gravitational waves a century after Einstein’s prediction. His research would win him the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shares, as well as Berkeley’s 2018 Alumnus of the Year.

Strawberry Creek, UC Berkeley campus

Around the Bend, Strawberry Creek

A poem written and performed by José L. Rodríguez Nodal, a long-time staff member with deep family ties to UC Berkeley, for the university’s 150th birthday on March 23, 2018

The Big C on Charter Hill

Give me a (concrete) C!

On our rugged eastern foothills,
Stands our symbol clear and bold, 
Big C means to fight and strive
And win for blue and gold.

— Excerpt from the song “Big C,” written in 1913 by Harold P. Williams and N. Loyall McLaren