Alpher, Ralph A. AUSTIN, Texas Ralph A. Alpher, 86, longtime resident of the Capital District area, passed away on Sunday, August 12, 2007 after a long illness. He had just received the National Medal of Science Award from President Bush on July 27, 2007 for his work on nucleosynthesis, the development of a model of the Big Bang theory of the creation of the Universe, and prediction of the Cosmic Background Radiation, existence of which was confirmed through observation in 1964 by Drs. Penzias and Wilson of Bell Telephone Labs in N.J. His son, Dr. Victor S. Alpher, of Austin, Texas where Ralph was residing, accepted this award for him as he could not travel. Dr. Ralph Alpher was a physicist with the G.E. Corporate Research and Development Center from 1955 through 1987. From 1987 through 2004, he served as distinguished research professor of astronomy and physics at Union College in Schenectady, simultaneously serving as director of the Dudley Observatory. He also served many years as president of the board of WMHT-TV, and had a keen interest in the development of the fledgling Public Television station. Since February 3, 2004, Dr. Alpher has been distinguished research professor of physics and astronomy Emeritus of Union College and University, Schenectady, N.Y. His seminal paper, "Formation of the Chemical Elements", appeared in the journal Nature on April 1, 1948. The paper was based on his dissertation, which was attended by 300 persons, including press, resulted in a Herblock cartoon, and faculty in full academic regalia--very unusual for such an event! For his ground breaking work on the Big Bang, he had received awards from the American Philosophical Society, the Franklin Institute, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Belgian Academy of Sciences, and the National Medal of Science. NASA has grouped the works of Ralph A. Alpher and Robert A. Herman along with those of Albert Einstein, Penzias and Wilson, and other important figures in cosmology of the 20th Century (COBE project brochure). His original predictions of the Cosmic Background Radiation were confirmed by observations made in 1964, and he currently has writing on the "pre"-Big Bang under review. Also, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) Project further confirmed Dr. Ralph A. Alpher and Dr. Robert A. Herman's work. COBE is one of NASA's most important projects of the last two decades in cosmology. Dr. Alpher's wife, Louise, passed away in July, 2004. He is survived by his son, Victor of Austin, Texas; daughter, Harriet Lebetkin of Danbury, Conn.; and grandchildren, Rachel and Lisa of Danbury and Hartford, Conn. Services at the Levine Memorial Chapel, 649 Washington Avenue, Albany, N.Y. on Thursday, August 16, 2007 at 1:00 p.m. Interment will follow in the Agudat Achim Cemetery, Rotterdam, N.Y. Donations in memory of Dr. Ralph A. Alpher are invited to the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology of the American Museum of Natural History (www.amnh.org), the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation (www.nation-almedals.org), or the American Institute of Physics Education Division to support science fellowships and grants at the undergraduate and graduate level (www.aip.org)
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Published by Albany Times Union from Aug. 14 to Aug. 15, 2007.