Richard Muller

Dr. Richard Muller is known for his broad range of achievements in fields ranging from particle physics to geophysics, applied physics, astrophysics and physics education. His skill at explaining science to non-scientists was honed over decades of advising top business and government leaders. His course, Physics for Future Presidents, was voted by the student body to be the Best Class at University of California, Berkeley. His popular book with the same name was published in 2008.

At Berkeley, Muller earned his Ph.D. under Nobel Laureate Luis Alvarez. Muller instigated a series of innovative physics projects, including a study of the cosmic microwave radiation, about which he wrote a Scientific American article in 1978, and which eventually led to a Nobel Prize for his protege, George Smoot. He developed a new way to measure radioisotopes (accelerator mass spectrometry), and a project to discover supernovae (exploding stars) for use in cosmology, a project that led to the discovery of the acceleration of the Universe. He coined the name Nemesis for a star that he and his colleagues suggested is orbiting the sun at great distance. He has published major papers on the analysis of lunar soil, the origin of comets, adaptive optics, paleoclimate, reversals of the Earth's magnetic field, and analysis of cycles in the fossil record.

His achievements have been honored by many awards, including a MacArthur Foundation Genius Prize, the Alan T. Waterman Award of the National Science Foundation, and the Texas Instruments Founders Prize. He was named by Newsweek in 1989 as one of the top 25 innovators in the United States in all fields. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the California Academy of Arts and Sciences. Muller won a Distinguished Teacher Award at Berkeley in 1999. He was nominated by the student body, and then cited by Chancellor Birgeneau as an “unsung hero” for “everyday heroism” and “extraordinary acts of kindness and dedication that either rescued [students] from failure or personal tragedy or transformed their lives.”

Muller is the author or coauthor of several other books: Nemesis (1988), The Three Big Bangs (1996), Ice Ages and Astronomical Causes (2000), The Annotated Special Relativity (2005), and a novel in which Jesus is depicted as a prophet with no supernatural power. For three years Muller wrote a monthly column for MIT's Technology Review, "Technology for Presidents.”

Session(s) by Richard Muller: