Seminar on History and Philosophy of Science
THE STORY OF THE FIRST SEARCHES AND SEARCHER FOR GRAVITATIONAL RADIATION
Yes, you would certainly expect gravitational information and energy to travel in waves, if only by analogy with electromagnetic waves, but it took a remarkably long time for the physics and relativity communities to converge on this (indeed there are still one or two hold-outs). Leopold Infeld, Peter Bergmann, and other familiar names are part of the story. But by the early 1960s, at least one person was sure enough of their existence to dedicate much of the rest of his life to looking for the radiation, using techniques derived from his background in microwave engineering and spectroscopy. His name was Joseph Weber; we were married from March, 1972 (a couple of weeks after we met) until his death, 30 September 2000; and the first LIGO signal arrived on the 15th (Hebrew calendar) anniversary of his death. My extended title reflects the history both of this talk and of my involvement in the consensus that "gravitational radiation exists, and Weber didn't discover it."