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Press Statement 06-002

NSF Supported 2006 Physics and Economics Nobel Work

Statement of congratulations by NSF director Arden L. Bement, Jr.

October 17, 2006

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

On behalf of the National Science Foundation, I congratulate the 2006 Nobel laureates in science on their remarkable achievements. This year's laureates represent the diverse range of American expertise and a deep commitment to scientific discovery. NSF is especially pleased to have funded this year's winners in physics and economics.

The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2006 was awarded jointly to John C. Mather and George F. Smoot for their studies of the infant universe and contributions to a better understanding of the origin of stars and galaxies. Using the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite launched by NASA in 1989, they analyzed cosmic microwave background radiation, which is a relic of the "big bang." Detection of extremely small variations in the temperature of the radiation offered a clue to the distribution of matter in the early universe. NSF supported Smoot's research for more than 20 years.

The Nobel Prize in Economics for 2006 was awarded to Edmund S. Phelps for his work that challenged the prevailing view of the relationship between inflation and unemployment represented by the Phillips curve. His research led to a better understanding of the short-term and long-term effects of economic policy. The Columbia University professor received a number of NSF research grants in the 1970s and 1980s.

Established "to promote the progress of science," NSF supports fundamental research in many disciplines. Since 1950, Nobel Prizes have been awarded to about 170 U.S. and U.S.-based researchers supported by NSF grants at some point in their careers.

Most laureates devote decades to their research before it is recognized. Americans can be proud of the dedication and innovation these pioneers bring to science.

A complete list of NSF-funded Nobel Prize winners through 2006 is posted at


Media Contacts
Dana Topousis, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-7750, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2020 budget of $8.3 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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