Skip to content

Kip Thorne

Nobel Laureate in Physics; Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, Caltech

Kip Thorne is a theoretical physicist, known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics. He was the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology until 2009.

Thorne received his BS degree from Caltech in 1962 and his PhD from Princeton University in 1965. After two years of postdoctoral study, Thorne returned to Caltech as an Associate Professor in 1967, was promoted to Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1970, became The William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor in 1981, and The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1991. Thorne’s research has focused on gravitation physics and astrophysics, with emphasis on relativistic stars, black holes and gravitational waves. In the late 1960’s and early 70’s he laid the foundations for the theory of pulsations of relativistic stars and the gravitational waves they emit. During the 70’s and 80’s he developed mathematical formalism by which astrophysicists analyze the generation of gravitational waves and worked closely with Vladimir Braginsky, Ronald Drever and Rainer Weison developing new technical ideas and plans for gravitational wave detection. He is a co-founder (with Weiss and Drever) of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project and he chaired the steering committee that led LIGO in its earliest years (1984–87). In the 1980s, 90s and 2000s he and his research group have provided theoretical support for LIGO, including identifying gravitational wave sources that LIGO should target, laying foundations for data analysis techniques by which their waves are being sought, designing the baffles to controlscattered light in the LIGO beam tubes, and — in collaboration with Vladimir Braginsky’s (Moscow Russia) research group —inventing quantum-nondemolition designs for advanced gravity-wave detectors.

In June 2009, Thorne resigned his Feynman Professorship (becoming the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus) in order to ramp up a new career in writing, movies, and continued scientific research. His principal current writing project is a textbook on classical physics co-authored with Roger Blandford. His principal current movie project is Interstellar (directed by Christopher Nolan; expected release in November 2014), on which Thorne is executive producer, and with Lynda Obst and Jonathan Nolan he coauthored the story from which the screenplay was adapted. His principal current research is an exploration of the nonlinear dynamical behaviors of curved spacetime, using computer simulations and analytical calculations.

Topic Series


Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Commonwealth Fund Book Program)

Buy the Book