LOS ANGELES (CNS) — An intersection adjacent to John Marshall High School in Los Feliz was dedicated Tuesday as Dr. Barry Barish Square, honoring the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who graduated from the school.
Barish shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics with Caltech colleague Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for their discoveries in gravitational waves.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the three Americans were recognized "for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves."
Speaking during the dedication ceremony Tuesday, Barish said he was "very proud" that the sign bearing his name is displayed outside John Marshall High School, calling himself "a really huge supporter of public education."
Along with being an alumnus of John Marshall, Barish attended two other Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the Los Feliz and Silver Lake areas: Micheltorena Elementary School and Thomas Starr King Middle School.
"(The public education system) has been attacked a lot in the last few years and I think it's really important to support it and to stress how basic it is to our country and having all of us participate in its future and developing the critical skills and so forth in the public system," Barish said.
Barish spoke at the dedication ceremony along with his wife Samoan, a psychoanalyst, Rhea Johnson, a colleague who submitted the nomination in Barish's honor, Marshall Principal Gary Garcia, and City Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who authored the motion to designate the intersection in Barish's honor.
Raman said that while Barish has received a Nobel Prize, along with many honorary degrees and election to the National Academy of Sciences and Royal Society in London, "I believe that this is your first street square that has been named after you."
Samoan Barish said that while her husband has received many honors, it's "particularly meaningful" to be honored in the neighborhood where he grew up.
"And I can't tell you how many times he says it," she said.
Barish was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on Jan. 27, 1936. Just after World War II, the family moved to Los Feliz. Barish received a bachelor's degree in physics and a doctorate in experimental particle physics at UC Berkeley before returning to Southern California to join the faculty at Caltech in 1963.
Barish was the principal investigator and director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, which was built to detect gravitational waves — ripples in space and time that had been predicted by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity, though Einstein had speculated that these waves were too weak to be detectable.
Under Barish's leadership, LIGO made the world 's first detections of gravitational waves on Sept. 14 2015. The waves were determined to have resulted from a collision between two black holes. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO detector in the United States.
The signal was extremely weak when it reached Earth, but scientists said it promised a revolution in astrophysics, gravitational waves being a new way of observing the most violent events in space.
Barish is a professor emeritus at Caltech and distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at UC Riverside.
"Your accomplishments are really remarkable, and your commitment and your dedication to your community, your neighborhood and to the next generation are remarkable," Raman told Barish during the ceremony.
Barish has returned to Marshall High on multiple occasions to speak with students and inspire them to pursue their academic passions.
Garcia said Barish has spent a lot of time with students and "they don't always like talking to people off-campus, but they love to talk with (Barish)."