Alan Guth: Stumbling to Inflation

Alan Guth is working on a fairly typical research paper, when he accidentally makes a huge discovery about the origin of the universe.

Alan H. Guth is the Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics and a MacVicar Faculty Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Trained in particle theory at MIT, Guth held postdoc positions at Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) before returning to MIT as a faculty member in 1980. His work in cosmology began at Cornell, when Henry Tye persuaded him to study the production of magnetic monopoles in the early universe. Using standard assumptions, they found that far too many would be produced. Continuing this work at SLAC, Guth discovered that the magnetic monopole glut could be avoided by a new proposal which he called the inflationary universe. Guth is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been awarded the Franklin Medal for Physics, the Dirac Prize, the Gruber Cosmology Prize, the Isaac Newton Prize, the Fundamental Physics Prize, and the Kavli Prize for Astrophysics. Guth has written a popular-level book called "The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins" (1997).