As far as I can find out, every Nobel Laureate, after he nobels, has been given some type of recognition in his home institution (Political dissidents aside.) Even John Mather’s co-winner, George Smoot, now has his own empire: The Smoot Group Cosmology.
John Mather may be the only Nobel Laureate in history who has not been given any recognition – not even a lollypop to suck on – by his home institution (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.) There he was a Senior Astrophysicist at the Observational Cosmology Laboratory in October of 2006, when that predawn phone call from Stockholm came. That is exactly what he is today. He is reportedly NASA’s crown jewel and the only civil servant Nobel Laureate, and yet he does not seem to have any visionary or advisory role in NASA.
Actually, it is even worse than that. He was given tremendous recognition – for a while. He was elevated to Chief Scientist at the NASA HQ soon after the Nobel Award. He became America’s No. 1 space scientist, and No. 3 man in NASA overall. I don’t know if he traveled in a Government jet, but that’s the kind of stratospheric height we are talking about. He was described as a scientist of legendary reputation by NASA top Management. TIME Magazine lost no time in giving him the highest billing, with a full-page photo of him standing under a Price Pfister raincan-style showerhead. I don’t know what that symbolism means, but it must be something highfalutin. There was big talk in NASA HQ of his providing vision and direction. John Mather also spoke about the vision thing in his Nobel Autobiography.
THE HEADY DAYS
During his brief stint as NASA Chief Scientist, Mather visits Panama in behalf of the US and is flanked by important dignitaries
Then came my allegation of science fraud. One morning less than a year later, NASA abruptly yanked him off his high pedestal and sent him packing back to GSFC. And what did they send him back to? Exactly and precisely his pre-Nobel job slot. He became a scientific grunt. The big muckety-muck was told – not too gently: Go work on the James Webb Telescope or something.
Now of course some will try to find innocuous explanation for this. Surely, that is possible. You can also find innocuous explanation when you hear the news “Rumsfeld resigns,” or “Alberto Gonzalez steps down.”
For the others, there can be absolutely no doubt that NASA leadership was broadcasting a very clear message, within their constraints.
What are the constraints? To do anything more about Mather would lead to serious organizational problems for NASA. John Mather’s discovery paper did not have a single author, himself. It had multiple collaborators from inside and outside NASA. So now, one had to apportion blame. Once you start that game, you open a Pandora’s Box.
WHAT WAS THEIR ROLE?
Dr. Mather (far left) and his colleagues, (counterclockwise) Al Kogut, Gary Hinshaw, and Dr. Chuck Bennett.
Dr. Mather (kneeling) examines the map of the universe along with Nancy Boggess, Michael Hauser (sitting), and Dr. Chuck Bennett (standing).
Here is a list of John Mather’s coauthors in the 1996-1997 papers on the COBE Satellite discovery. What role did they have in this gigantic science fraud? If none, why have not they come forward to help expose the fraud? They are accountable for their conduct either before the fact, or after the fact. All of them, I think, were on public payroll. In no way are they off the hook.
M. G. Hauser
D. T. Leisawitz
R. F. Silverberg
J. L. Weiland
And don’t forget these visuals:
The COBE Science Team
The COBE Engineering Team
Interviewer (left) with COBE engineering boss Dennis McCarthy (center), and science boss John Mather (right)
What did ALL these people really do?
So, what the NASA leadership did to Mather was the most and the least they could do as a first step. But more needed to be done: Public acknowledgement had to be made, like all other countries have done with regard to their respective frauds. The US needed to apologize to the World, like the other countries have done.
At this juncture, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, who personally oversaw the Mather matter, left. The interim Administrator, Chris Scolese, gave reins to Mather and let him spread his wings a bit.
The next NASA Administrator Charles Bolden seems to have done nothing about the sitution – one way or another. However, when the Swedish Nobel Foundation tried to re-launch Mather through their NobelTube (Nobel YouTube) caper, NASA did not play along. Mather remained in the doghouse. NASA and the Nobel Foundation – if they had been in consultation on how to deal with the John Mather fraud – parted ways.
Somwhere along the line, somebody (most likely from NASA) seems to have cracked down hard on the grotesque John Mather Nobel Scholar program. Mather tried to use GSFC as the fertile grounds from which to recruit bright young people and brand them with his own name. He may have been trying frantically to plant his name so deeply and so widely that nobody could dislodge it.
John Mather’s friends and colleagues within NASA have tried to give him as much limelight and exposure and perhaps protection as possible – using what little mode of exposure they had charge of. So you will find GSFC’s “home movies” extolling Mather. And here is a fine example of your tax dollars hard at work within NASA: These people went as far as to cast the Nobel Ceremonies in the format of the Oscar Ceremonies, with John Mather interviewed in the style of “Guests arriving” (as in a TV reporter interviewing Hilary Swank in the foyer.) Lordy Lordy! The website of the James Webb Space Telescope has been particularly active in giving John Mather plugs. Also, he is given GSFC’s videoconference facilities to give lectures in foreign countries like India and Russia.
All these produced the desired effect: Giving the public the impression that there was nothing the matter with Mather. NASA rank and file was undermining what NASA top leadership was doing.
John Mather may have other powerful friends and protectors. Not only within the academia. For example, in 2008, he made $7250 in political contribution.
However it is, nobody came to rescue Mather from his extreme humiliation – by offering him, for example, a high endowed professorship. Why not? After all, from what they said about him, he would be a prize catch for the Harvards and Princetons. This says to me that inside the academia, there is also tacit recognition of the fraud.
So John Mather stays in his NASA doghouse. As a French proverb has it, Where the goat is tied she must browse. Or even take the Nigerian proverb: A man does not wander far from where his corn is roasting.
The basic fact remains in plain view of the public:
Three years after his Nobel Prize, Mather remains in the exact same job he was in before the prize announcement. He has no leadership role in NASA. Nobody rescues him from this situation.