University of Texas
Center for Relativity

 

Center for Relativity 1978


UT Center for Relativity, April 1978

(L to R)
RLMoore Hall
Back Row: Paul Gleichauf, Charles Hart, Bryce DeWitt, Jim Fitzwilliam, Jon Pfautsch (hidden), John Miller
Fourth Row: Judi Taylor-Williams, Rich Guy (black t-shirt), Nelson Zamorano, Frank Handler, Tsvi Piran, Gary Sammelmann, Philip Candelas
Third Row: Lester Clendenning, Larry Shepley, Benny Sheeks, David Deutsch (hidden), Jorge Bellet
Second Row: Richard Matzner, Mauro Francaviglia, Joyce Patton, Paul Davies, Cécille DeWitt, Murray Cantor
Front Row: Susan Chandler, Tony Rothman, Amir Najmi, John Futterman, Martin Duncan, Bruce Nelson

History

The Center for Relativity began in 1962, under the direction of Alfred Schild. New Chair Harold Hanson conceived the idea of forming, within the Physics Department,centers of excellence. Schild had recently moved from the Department of Mathematics and was quick to embrace the idea and renamed his group The Center for Relativity. The Charter of the Center for Relativity was to discover and describe the behavior of gravitation, a fundamental force that plays its most important roles on very large scales (cosmology) and the very smallest scales (quantum gravity on microscopic fractions of the atomic scales).

From its inception the Center for Relativity has contributed strongly to its science. In 1963, while Roy Kerr was Alfred Schild's postdoc in the Center for Relativity at Texas, he discovered the most important stationary gravitational configuration known, the “Kerr Solution,” which describes a spinning black hole, and which has demonstrated a boundless domain of applicability in astrophysics. Other early members included Roger Penrose, later Sir Roger and Chair-holder-emeritus in the Mathematical Institute at Oxford; Jurgen Ehlers, later Director of the "Einstein" Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany; Engleburt Schucking, now Professor of Physics Emeritus at NYU; Rainer K. "Ray" Sachs, now Professor of Mathematics Emeritus at UC Berkley; Robert Geroch, Professor of Physics at Chicago.

 

In 1972, Bryce DeWitt, Professor of Physics, (now deceased) and Cécile DeWitt-Morette (then Professor of Astronomy, now deceased) joined the faculty, which then consisted of Alfred Schild, Lawrence C. Shepley, and Richard Matzner. Bryce was appointed Director.

Bryce Dewitt covered all bases: he made essential contributions to the study of quantum gravity; these efforts had a dramatic effect on the flowering of Quantum Gravity research in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1973, Bryce Dewitt co-led the last optical observation of the deflection of light by the sun. This was accomplished during a total solar eclipse, observed from western Africa, the oasis Chinguetti, in Mauritania. In June of that year, Bryce DeWitt, Cécile DeWitt-Morette, and Richard Matzner participated with others in an expedition to Mauritania to photograph the total eclipse of the sun. This observation turned out to produce a quite accurate (~10%) determination of the deflection of light by the sun, arguably the most accurate photographic determination of this phenomenon ever. (Radio astronomy observations are now much more accurate, at the tenths of a percent level.)

 

 

A different direction of Bryce Dewitt's leadership guided Larry Smarr, at right with Bryce, to carry out the first successful computational simulation of colliding black holes. This effort laid the foundation for all computational black hole simulations and for the ultimate prediction of gravitational waveforms from such encounters. Smarr later became Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, and today he is Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, a UC San Diego/UC partnership, and holder of the Harry E. Gruber Professorship in Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD’s Jacobs School.

Bryce Dewitt won the Dirac medal in 1987. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences from 1990. He authored two of the really significant books in mathematical physics: Supermanifolds, (1984), second edition, (1992); Dynamical Theory of Groups and Fields, (l965). He edited, with C. Dewitt-Morette: Relativity, Groups and Topology (1964); Black Holes, (1972).
More on Bryce Dewitt...

 

 

 

 

Professor Cécile Dewitt-Morette developed the mathematics of path integration, a representation of quantum mechanics which applies directly to nonlinear physics (like quantized gravity). Professor Cécile DeWitt-Morette holds two knighthoods for her lifelong work in theoretical and mathematical physics: Chevalier d l‚’Ordre National du Mérite (1981) and Chevalier dans l`Ordre des Palmes Academiques (1991). She also holds the Prix du Rayonnement Francais (1992). She was the organizer of the very prestigious international Les Houches Schools in Physics, which began in 1951. She has edited (sometimes with co-editors) twenty-three of the Lecture Volumes from the School, including the two mentioned above, edited with B. DeWitt, and New Stochastic Methods In Physics, edited with K. D. Elworthy. She has published three books: L’energie Atomique (1946); Particules Elémentaires (1951); and Analysis, Manifolds, and Physics (with Choquet-Bruhat and Dillard, 1977). Revisions/extensions of the last have been: Analysis, Manifolds, and Physics, revised (with Choquet-Bruhat, 1982) and Analysis, Manifolds, and Physics, part II, 92 Applications (with Choquet-Bruhat, 1989).

At the request of the French Scientific Attaché, Cécile Dewitt-Morette is now (Spring 2011) collaborating in the creation of The Foundation France-Texas. A preliminary step has been taken with a UTeach request by Michael Marder for support of
an exchange program between Austin and Grenoble involving National Instruments. Pending the official creation of the Foundation, a small grant has been awarded to the UTeach project. Together with other small projects being completed, it will serve to prime the financial flow of the Foundation.

Larry Shepley, shown at right in Antarctica in 2001, coauthored a text on homogeneous anisotropic cosmology that has become a standard reference in studies of quantum cosmology. He continues work in cosmology; his most recent work is Hamiltonian Dynamics of Spatially-homogeneous Vlasov-Einstein Systems (with Okabe, Morrison, and Friedrichsen). Shepley retired in 1995, but for a number of years remained active in minority issues and particularly in the training of graduate students in the Department of Physics.

 

 

 

 

 

From 1976 to 1980, Professor Dennis Sciama was a member of the Center. Sciama later served as Director of the Astrophysics Group at the Italian School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy and as visiting professor at Oxford. Sciama was a frequent visitor to the Center for Relativity until his death in 1999. In 1976, Philip Candelas, one of Sciama’s students joined the Center as a Research Associate. He was appointed to the faculty the next year and rose to full professor in 1989. His interest included Quantum Gravity, Field Theory and String Theory. In 1999, he became Rouse-Ball Professor of Mathematics at University of Oxford.

Photo of Philip Candelas at left.

 

Richard A. Matzner was appointed director in 1987. Matzner's broad interests included theoretical cosmology and its observational implications, and the challenges to theory from the observations; space-borne experiments to observe aspects of the gravitational field and its theoretical description; gravitational-wave detection, theoretical and computational modeling of strong-gravity astrophysical sources of gravitational radiation of neutrino and of electromagnetic radiation, and computational physics in general. The Center for Relativy was dissolved in Fall 2014.

Matzner is a member of the LIGO-Virgo Collaboration (an experiment to use ground based detectors for direct observation of gravitational radiation -- none detected yet), and also participates in the LARES experiment to observe the dragging of inertial frames due to the rotating earth, and in a space-borne experiment to evaluate the use of X-ray pulsars for deep space navigation. LIGO/Virgo, and its proposed space-borne partner LISA, will demonstrate and initiate a new window on astronomy, and will reach cosmological distances (hundreds of Megaparsecs for LIGO/Virgo, multiple Gigaparsecs for LISA) to study the earliest history of galaxies and stars. Matzner is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. His international involvement includes foreign membership of the Academy of Sciences of Turin, one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific societies. He has served on national and international review committees (DOE Chicago‚–ASCI 1998 review chairman, Scientific Advisory Board [Fachbeirat] at the Max-Planck Institut für Gravitationsphysik, Potsdam 1996-2002), on National Academy of Science panels, on the LIGO Program Advisory Committee, (PAC, LIGO's external review committee) including PAC Chair in 2003-2004, and on organizing committees for international conferences.

In 1988, following his retirement from Princeton University, Professor John Wheeler, at left, became a member of the Center for Relativity at the same time that he became an Emeritus Professor at The University of Texas. Wheeler was active in all aspects of gravitational theory, and in the fundamental understanding of the quantum measurement process until his death in 2008. In May -- June 2006, I. Ciufolini and Richard Matzner co-organized a School entitled General Relativity and John Archibald Wheeler" at Erice Italy, and produced a companion volume detailing Wheeler's contribution to experimental and astrophysical relativity. For more on Wheeler ...

In 1991, Matthew Choptuik, at right, joined the Center as a post-doctoral student. His interest was computation relativity. From 1992-95 he was a Research Associate and in 1995 he was appointed Associate Professor of Physics. In 1997 Choptuik won the Xanthopolous International Award for Research in Gravitational Physics for his dramatic work on critical behavior in gravitational collapse. Choptuik demonstrated also a remarkable rapport with students and had very high ratings in his teaching. He was a member of the Editorial Board of Classical and Quantum Gravity and an extremely widely sought-after speaker at national and international meetings.

In the summer of 1999, Professor Choptuik was strongly recruited by the University of British Columbia. Despite support from the Department of Physics and the Dean of the College in a very attractive counter-offer, Professor Choptuik accepted a position at UBC beginning Fall 1999. Professsor Choptuik remained involved in the Center after taking up the post at UBC (through a zero-time appointment and an Adjunct Professorship). Nonetheless, this loss occurred at a very sensitive time for the Center with two distinguished members, Professor Bryce DeWitt and Professor Cécile Dewitt-Morette, approaching the last year (1999-2000) of their three-year phased retirement. Bryce Dewitt died in 2004.

In 1993, based on previous collaborations, the Center organized the NSF-funded Binary Black Hole Grand Challenge Alliance. Through the Center for Relativity, the University of Texas at Austin was the lead institution, subcontracting to seven other universities (Illinois, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Cornell, North Carolina, Penn State). The current Center director, Richard Matzner, was the lead PI of the NSF-funded project ($3.762 M over five years beginning in September 1993).

There is no question that innovative and outstanding research made the Center for Relativity one of the stellar centers of research at Texas. By the year 2000 the Center stood in a world class challenged by only a few centers at other institutions. During this period the center included typically three postdocs at any one time.

After a decade of attrition, today (Spring 2011), the Center for Relativity consists of only one non-retired Professor (Matzner) and two retired faculty (C. Dewitt-Morette and L. Shepley) together with students (mostly, but not exclusively, Matzner's). Cécile Dewitt-Morette retired in 2000 but remains very active; she is currently directing the research of a PhD student, and an informal network of several PhDs from the Austin area. The Center for Relativity faculty are, in fact, faculty in the Department of Physics. The last relativist hired in Physics was Matthew Choptuik.

For about the past decade the Physics Department has had a priority of hiring in Cosmology. Matzner has published substantially in areas of cosmology, including the very early universe, higher dimensional theories and very early cosmology, inhomogeneous impediments to inflation, the quark-hadron transition and its observationally allowed inhomogeneity, cosmic nucleosynthesis, and the anisotropy of the microwave background, LIGO/Virgo and LISA as noted above. For a variety of reasons this effort has proven unsuccessful. In 2011, a renewed effort was launched.

The Center for Relativity is still a dynamic entity, with frequent publications and continuing education of PhDs with interesting dissertations. But the Center very much needs a new hire in its area, and supports the idea that relativistic cosmology and astrophysics be represented at the University of Texas. The LIGO and Virgo detectors are at present being upgraded to their ultimate sensitivity. When their estimated rates of detections (signals from mergers involving neutron stars and/or black holes) are in the 1/week to 1/month range, dramatic new insights will be exposed. The Center for Relativity will be part of this discovery and the exploitation of this discovery, but theoretical insights and interpretations demand a community of collaborators. Hopefully a new faculty member familiar with the field of gravitational radiation will contribute strongly to the interpretation and understanding of this new and potentially very important view on the universe.

 

Center for Relativity Photo Album

Alfred Schild, P. A. M. Dirac, Unknown, Paul Gleichauf (kneling)
Paul Dirac
Steve Pickrel
Maybe Relativity Secretary, please identify.-1
Relativity Secretary -2

Elaine Tsiang, Lane Hughston, Steve Christensen, Larry Smarr

Trieste, Summer 1971

Elaine Tsiang, Lane Hughston, Steve Christensen, Bryce Dewitt

Trieste, Summer 1971

Relativity Secretaries -3
Steve Christensen '75, now Professr of Physics at U. of North Carolina. In 2019, Steve was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society. His citation read, "“For developing the point-splitting regularization technique in quantum field theory in curved spacetime and for finding the structure of the gravitational trace anomaly and its relationship to Hawking radiation.”
Edward "Ed" E. Fairchild
Murray Cantor ?
Hank Strauss
Unknown-7
Unknown-8
Unknown-9
Unknown-10

Jorgé Krause, later at
Facultad de Física, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Richard Matzner
Unknown-12
Unknown-13
Unknown-14
Unknown-15
Unknown-16
Unknown-17
Unknown -19
Ronald C. Davidson, identified by David Ross
Why the photo in Larry Shepley's collection? Ron earned his PhD in 1966 from Princeton. Larry got his degree at Princeton in 1965, they overlapped and likely knew each other.
Ron Davidson (1941–2016)
Larry Shepley, 1964
Richard Matzner, January 1968, Austin, TX

Paul Dirac, University of Texas, 1968

Joyce Patton
Roy Kerr
Unknown-21
Student and Richard Matzner
Unknown-22
Nini Taub
Unknown-23
Alfred Schild
Professor Ivor Robinson, UT Dallas
Unknown-24
Roy Kerr
Richard Matzner
Jorgé Krause (1928–2011), postdoc.
In 2013, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile named an auditorium in a new building to honor Jorgé who served on the physics faculty.

Krause's widow, Mercedes Bisquert, donated about one thousand books of physics and mathematics and handwritten hardcover notebooks.

Jürgen Ehlers
Unknown-27 Maybe Collen Kieke?
Unknown 28
Unknown-29
Unknown 30
Unknown 31
Roy Kerr organizing slides.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Austin, 1982

Now Director of Hayden Planetarium

Bryce with his graduate student Larry Smarr 
(In 1985, Smarr founded and became the director of the National Center for Supercomputing Application at U. Ilinois-UC.)
Maybe Steve Pickrel
Mark Dubal (postdoc)

Unknown 35

 

Richard Matzner
Frank Handler

 

Tom Criss, PhD 1975, now at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Bruce Nelson, ca 1978
Collen Kieke
Vern Sandberg
Paul Chrzanowski
Katherine Holcomb. PhD in 1986, supervised by Richard Matzner. She is at the University of Virginia.
Larry Shepley, Hugh Harleston, PhD UT 1987, Richard Matzner, Michael Ryan, photo 1986, Austin

A stag party for Maurice Mizrahi, May 24, 1974, Austin, Texas
L to R: Gerhard E. Hahne '75 (later at NASA), John Alan Underwood '77 (later faculty at Austin Community College, Austin, TX), Peter Hogan with bottle (Post-Doc, later at School of Physics, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland, Member of Royal Irish Academy), Albert "Al" Alan Jackson (later at McDonnell Douglas Corporation), Maurice Mizrahi blue shirt '75 (later U. of Rochester and the Penagon), Tom Criss '75 (later at Applied Physics Laboratory at Penn State U.), Michael "Mike" P. Ryan Jr. (Post Doc, later Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico), Michael "Mike" Rasmussen '75 ( Mike retired from Boeing/McDonnell Douglas after 40 years providing technical and management leadership on the Space Shuttle, Space Station Freedom, and International Space Station programs.)

Maurice Mizrahi, PhD UT 1975, APS Meeting in Anaheim, CA
Cécile DeWitt-Morette, Maurice M. Mizrahi, Larry Shepley, Bryce DeWitt. Mizrahi earned his PhD in 1975 with Cécile and later worked at the Center for Naval Analyses of The University of Rochester, 1975–1982 and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (in the Pentagon) 1982–2009.
(Photo December 27, 2002, courtesy of Maurice Mizrahi)
Albert Alan Jackson, PhD UT 1975, worked at McDonnell Douglas Corporation and Triton Systems
1985, March, UT Austin, Administrative Secretary Zelda Davis
1985, Spring, Kenneth E. Wilson (PhD 1985)

1986, April Graduation Party
Rosalind Brown, Stephen G. Eubank (PhD 1986), George Wilshire Nelson (PhD 1990), Bruce P. Jensen (PhD 1985)

Bruce Jensen, BS U. of Arizona, M.Sc. U. of London, PhD UT, student of Philip Candelas, "Vacuum Polarization on Black-Hole Spacetimes" might have married Rosalind Brown. Retired in 2017, lives in Wimborne, UK

Dave Segetti
1986, April Graduation Party
Katherine Holcomb
1986, January AAS Meeting. Houston
Katherine Holcomb, 1986
Summer at the Office

Rebecca B. "Becky" Coffman (PhD 1986),
Student of J. C. Thompson
1985

Courtney Leyendecker
John David Brown (PhD 1985),
Photo 1983

Alice Mae Young (PhD 1985),
She is the spouse of Neil deDrasse Tyson. They met at UT and married in 1988. She did undergraduate work at Rice U.
Photo 1983

Glenn Bennett (PhD 1984)
Graduation Party, 1985

Joyce Patten and Unknown
Center for Relativity Administrative Secretary

Katherine Holcomb, Passport Photo, 1983
Richard David Jordan (PhD 1986),
Photo 1983
Kerry G. Coffman (PhD 1986), Rebecca B. "Becky" Coffman(PhD 1986) and Ben ?
Richard Matzner and Hannu Antero Kurki-Suonio (PhD 1986),
Photo 1985
Richard James "Rich" Rohwer (PhD 1985),
Photo 1984

Tony Mezzacappa (PhD 1988) and Keith Louis Thompson (PhD 1991, Astronomy)
1986

Anthony "Tony" Mezzacappa Joint Institute for Computational Sciences 2005 Mezzacappa, who heads the Theoretical Astrophysics Group in Physics, earned his Ph.D. in 1988 at the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining ORNL in 1996, he held positions at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he is currently adjunct professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. A world leader in computational astrophysics and a pioneer in the field of supernova science, Mezzacappa was the first to implement Boltzmann kinetic theory to model neutrino transport during supernova explosions, a theoretical and numerical feat long thought impossible. Since joining ORNL in 1996, he has conceived, proposed, and now leads the Terascale Supernova Initiative, a multi-million dollar, multiyear DOE initiative involving several dozen researchers at a dozen institutions around the world. TSI is one of the world's largest computational astrophysics initiatives. Mezzacappa is a fellow of the American Physical Society and received the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering in 1999. His extensive community outreach efforts include involvement in the Universe Knoxville project and the proposed downtown relocation and expansion of the East Tennessee Discovery Center.

Photo Study of Eugene Wigner
Summer 1978, U. of Texas, Austin, Texas.

During a visit with Professor John Wheeler, Nobel Prize winner Eugene Wigner received much help from UT Physics Administrative Secretary, Janee M. Richardson Trybyszewski. In appreciation for her help, he gave her the following photos of himself.

The photos were shot by R. P. Matthews of Princeton University for use associated with Wigner receiving the first Wigner Medal. The Wigner Medal was established in 1977/8 and was awarded for the first time at the Integrative Conference on Group Theory and Mathematical Physics (7th International Group Theory Colloquium 1978) to Eugene P. Wigner and Valentine Bargmann. The purpose of the Wigner Medal is to recognize outstanding contributions to the understanding of physics through group theory.

At right we see Wigner receiving the medal from University of Texas Physics Professor Arno R. Bohm

Eugene P. Wigner, front
Eugene P. Wigner, back
Eugene P. Wigner, head
Eugene P. Wigner, profile
Eugene P. Wigner, back
Eugene P. Wigner, up
Eugene P. Wigner, composite

The Second Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics Conference
December 1964, Austin, Texas.

Longhorn Singers entertaining the The Second Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics Conference participants,
December 1964, Austin, Texas.The following conference photos are from Larry Shepley's files.
Dave Zipoy and Harry Zapolsky, Austin, 12/1964
Jon Albert Schlosser and Joe David Zund, 12/1964, Austin.

Jon received his PhD under Alfred Schild at UT in 1963.

Joe received his PhD in Mathematics from University of Texas (Austin), May 1964. He was professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences, New Mexico State University (Las Cruces), 1972-2001
Frank Estabrook and V. N. Zharkov, 12/1964

Frank B. Estabrook is a Caltech alumus (M.S. 1947, PhD 1950). Estabrook was a physicist at JPL from 1960 to 2006, and Distinguished Visiting Scientist from 2006-2016. He is currently retired.

Kip Thorne and Dieter Brill, 12/1964, Austin
Bob Schwartz and Dieter Brill, 12/1964, Austin
Jim Peebles, 12/1964, Austin
Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus of Science at Princeton University
Stanislaw Bazinsky

Fourth Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics, Dallas, Texas, December 16–20, 1968

Ray Sachs
Alfred Schild and Unknown
John Wheeler (1911-2008) and Peter Bergmann (1915-2002)
Paul Dirac (1902-1984) at right
Geoffrey Burbidge (1925-2010) and George B. Field
Abraham H. Taub (1911-1999 and André Lichnerowicz (1915-1998)
Robert B. Dicke (1916-1997) and Unknown, Unknown, at back is Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri (1924-2005)
Unknown, Carol Schild and Winnie Schild
Henry A. Hill (University of Arizona) and Richard W. "Dick" Lindquist, (Wesleyan University)
Kip Throne and Keith Harrison
Ivor Robinson and Cécile DeWitt-Morette
Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri (1924-2005)
Jim Christenson (NYU), M. A. Melvin (FSU), Dieter Brill, Unti (?), and KipTthrone
Jane Wardlaw, Secretary of Symposium
Winnie Schild
Václav Hlavatý (1894-1969), Indiana University and Joe Zund, New Mexico State University
Václav Hlavatý (1894-1969), Indiana University and V. N. Zharkov
Rainer Sachs, UT and Berkley, John Wheeler, Dieter Brill
Jon Schlosser and spouse
Harry Zapolsky
Unknown, Unknown, Charles W. Misner, Maryland