Clifford M. Will

University of Florida

Primary Section: 13, Physics
Secondary Section: 12, Astronomy
Membership Type: Member (elected 2007)


Clifford Will is Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Florida, Chercheur Associé at the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, and the James S. McDonnell Professor of Space Sciences Emeritus at Washington University in St. Louis. He received a BSc in Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics from McMaster University (Canada) in 1968 and a PhD in Physics from Caltech in 1971. He was an Enrico Fermi Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago, 1972–1974; Assistant Professor of Physics at Stanford University, 1974–1981; Associate then Full Professor of Physics at Washington University, 1981-2005 and McDonnell Professor, 2005 - 2012. He served as Department Chair from 1991–2002. In 2012 he moved to the University of Florida. He was elected to the NAS in 2007, and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, 1989; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2002; and the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation, 2016. Selected honors include: Distinguished Alumnus in the Sciences, McMaster University, 1996; Honorary Doctorate, University of Guelph, Canada, 2013; Albert Einstein Medal, 2019; Einstein Prize, American Physical Society, 2021.

Research Interests

Clifford Will studies the observable aspects and testable predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity. He has long been engaged in developing theoretical frameworks for studying tests of general relativity in the solar system and in binary pulsars. More recently he has focused on testing Einstein's theory in the dynamical strong-field regime, particularly using gravitational waves. His group helped pioneer the calculation of the gravitational radiation signal from inspiralling and merging binary systems of compact objects (neutron stars or black holes) using the "post-Newtonian" approximation to general relativity. The "template'' gravitational waveforms that were developed played a role in the detections of gravitational radiation by the ground-based laser interferometer observatories LIGO and Virgo beginning in 2015. He has also proposed ways to test alternatives to standard general relativity using gravitational waves. He studies ways to test Einstein's theory in the strong-field regime near black holes, in particular by studying stars revolving around the massive black hole in the center of the Milky way. Another research interest is the long-term effects of general relativity in the orbits of bodies in many-body systems, such as star clusters surrounding massive black holes, and in hierarchical three-body systems.

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