OSA | Living History

Stanley E. Whitcomb

OSA Awards & Distinctions



Stan Whitcomb was most recently the Chief Scientist of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory. Stan received his undergraduate education at Caltech and had one year of graduate study at Cambridge University before completing his Ph. D at the University of Chicago in far-infrared and submillimeter astronomy. He returned to Caltech in 1980, near the beginning of Caltech’s entry into the field of gravitational wave detection. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and The Optical Society. He received the 2018 C.E.K. Mees Medal “For pioneering interdisciplinary contributions to the development of LIGO gravitational-wave interferometers.” Whitcomb was also the recipient of the 1996 Archie Mahan Prize, which is no longer presented.

Whitcomb’s research has been focused on the development of LIGO, the detection of gravitational waves, and their use as a tool for astronomy and physics.  Over the years, he has been involved in nearly every aspect of LIGO—concept development, prototype sensitivity demonstration, detector design and installation, commissioning, data analysis, and management.  After thirty-five years of development and construction, LIGO detected its first gravitational wave in late 2015, from the inspiral and merger of a pair of black holes.



Document Created: 11 Jun 2020
Last Updated: 19 Jun 2020