Rainer Weiss


Rainer Weiss was awarded the Fudan-Zhongzhi Science Award for his seminal invention of the laser interferometer gravitational-wave detector that became the foundation for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), for the initial analysis of the detector’s major noise sources, and for his subsequent leadership in LIGO’s instrumentation science research, which made the detectors sensitive enough to detect gravitational waves for the first time in human history.

Rainer Weiss was the first to analyze and sketch out a suspended mass interferometer system that could potentially reach the expected sensitivity of DL/L ~ 10-21, sensitive to displacements comparable to one one-thousandth the size of the proton!  A lot of important research was carried out around the world, but only by the mid-1980s did it become realistic to consider building such a large suspended mass interferometer system. The proposed instrument in the U.S. was called LIGO, for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory.  Rai Weiss continued to play an important role in LIGO through the construction, and then the continuing problem of hunting noise sources that limited measurement sensitivity.

Weiss is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, the American Astronomical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been awarded the NASA Achievement Award, the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award, and the Gruber Prize in Cosmology. He is one of three winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics (2017).