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Bell Labs’ Arno Penzias & Robert Wilson Are Nobel Prize Laureates

On October 17, 1978, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, researchers at Bell Labs in Holmdel, were recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation. Using the powerful “Holmdel horn antenna” (pictured), Penzias and Wilson gathered the first experimental evidence that established the “Big Bang” model of the origin of the universe. The Nobel Prize in Physics 1978 was divided, with one quarter each awarded to Penzias and Wilson, and a half share awarded to Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa “for his basic inventions and discoveries in the area of low-temperature physics.”

In 1964, Penzias and Wilson were calibrating the antenna when they inadvertently detected a low, mysterious noise persisting in the background of their receiver.  What they had stumbled across was cosmic microwave background radiation.  The work they carried out at Bell Labs graduated the Big Bang Theory to the realm of accepted science fact.

The 15-meter Holmdel horn antenna at Bell Telephone Laboratories’ Crawford Hill annex (791 Holmdel-Keyport Road), was built in 1959 for pioneering work in communication satellites.  The antenna, aluminum with a steel base, is 50 feet in length and the entire structure weighs about 18 tons.  In 1990 the horn was dedicated to the National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark, where the public can still see this amazing invention. 


Breskin, Ira. (1978). Bell Labs Scientists Will Get Nobel Prize. The Asbury Park Press, October 18, 1978, P. 1.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1978. Nobel Media AB 2019. Sat. 28 Dec 2019. <>

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