Alan Guth is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is widely recognized for his work on researching elementary particle theory. In 2014, he won the Kavli Prize “for pioneering the theory of cosmic inflation” along with Alexei Starobinsky and Andrei Linde.

Alan Guth is a graduate of MIT in physics and also completed his master’s and a doctorate in physics from the same institute. He came with the idea of cosmic inflation in 1979 and gave his first seminar on the topic in 1980. He formally proposed the idea of cosmic inflation at Stanford University. The idea was that in its initial days the universe passed through a phase of exponential expansion that happened due to a positive vacuum energy density. Let’s understand the work put behind the theory that is very compelling and widely accepted in the field of physics.

## Guth’s education and past life

Guth enrolled for a five-year program at MIT to complete his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in 1969 and a doctorate in 1972. Like many other budding physicists in the same era, Guth was unable to find a permanent job. This generation is also referred to as the “generation of lost scholars.”

At the beginning of his career, Alan Guth researched particle physics. His earlier work at Princeton was studying quarks, the elementary particle that comes together to form protons and neutrons. At Columbia, he researched grand unification (GUTs), which focus on the phase transitions happening due to spontaneous symmetry breaking.

## Theory of cosmic inflation

Alan Guth’s first step towards developing the theory of cosmic inflation came at Cornell in 1978, after he attended a lecture about the flatness problem of the universe by Robert Dicke. In his lecture, Dicke explained how something significant needs to add up to the Big Bang theory at the time.

The next part of the theory from Guth came when he attended a lecture by Steven Weinberg about the Grand Unified Theory (GUT), and how can it explain the huge amount of matter in the universe in comparison to antimatter.

## Solving complex problems of the universe

Guth took matters into hand and decided to solve these problems by suggesting a supercooling during a delayed phase transition. The idea seemed promising for solving the magnetic monopole problem. By the time Guth and his partner Henry Tye came up with the idea, Guth had gone to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) for one year. Tye suggested checking that the expansion of the universe would not be affected by supercooling.

Alan Guth realized from his theory of cosmic inflation that the reason the universe appears flat was that it has expanded to such massive size in comparison to its original size. The observable universe was actually a very small part of what the universe is now. For his exceptional work on cosmic inflation theory, Alan Guth received the 2014 Kalvi Prize awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.