Princeton University's Joseph H. Taylor, Jr., who in 1974 discovered a binary pulsar that has helped verify gravitational aspects of general relativity theory, will receive this year's Wolf Prize in physics. The $100,000 award, to be presented to Taylor in May by the president of Israel, is one of six given annually by the Israel-based Wolf Foundation. The other five awards are in the fields of chemistry, medicine, mathematics, agriculture, and the arts.

Pulsars, rapidly spinning neutron stars, were first discovered in 1967. As a pulsar spins, it emits a continuous beam of radio energy that rotates along with the star. Like a lighthouse beam sweeping the sky, to the stationary observer--such as an earthbound researcher--this beam is perceived as a pulse. These pulses are regular to within a few hundred nanoseconds per year.

In 1974, Taylor, then on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, and his graduate student,...

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