The LSU College of Science inducted four exceptional individuals into the Hall of Distinction on April 22, 2016, among them William O. Hamilton, LSU Professor Emeritus in Physics & Astronomy, and considered the “father of gravitational physics at LSU.”
Over his career, Hamilton has made seminal contributions to low-temperature experimental physics that have had major impacts in astronomy and cosmology. His pioneering work was instrumental in attracting the Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) facility to Livingston, Louisiana. His leading research in research in low-temperature physics, development of early cryogenic detectors, and operation of the ALLEGRO gravity wave bar detector leadership established LSU at the forefront of the important and high priority area of gravitational research, an area of research currently a centerpiece of the Physics & Astronomy Department’s research efforts.
History was made on September 15, 2015, when LIGO-Livingston and its twin observatory in Hanford, Washington made the first direct detection of gravitational radiation: a phenomenon which is predicted by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, but had not been previously observed. Hamilton’s research, combined with the efforts of Professor Warren Johnson and Chancellor Emeritus James Wharton helped locate the site and initiate the proposal that led to the construction of LIGO Livingston.
After three years of service as a U.S. naval aviator, Hamilton received his PhD from Stanford in 1963. He remained at Stanford as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor until he joined the LSU faculty in 1970.
At LSU, Hamilton served on the Faculty Senate and Senate Executive Committee, as chair of the Graduate Council, on the departmental Steering Committee, and as associate dean of Academic Services. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and his research helped lay the groundwork for the worldwide effort to detect gravitational waves using laser interferometric techniques.
Established in 2004, the LSU College of Science Hall of Distinction celebrates individuals who make significant contributions to science, business, academia, or government, as well as to their community. 2016 honorees were Charles Chappius, MD, Brigadier General, Louisiana Air National Guard and Distinguished LSU Alumnus, Class of 1974; William Daly, PhD, Emeritus Alumni Professor, LSU Department of Chemistry; Susan Murphy, PhD, H.E. Robbins Professor of Statistics & Professor of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, and Distinguished LSU Alumnus, Class of 1980; and Hamilton.