Texans I’d Like to Meet: Geniuses of Music and Science
By: Piper Meeks, Contributor
Here it is – what you’ve all been waiting for – the second addition to my weekly article highlighting some of the greatest Texans out there. This week, I decided to focus on two Texans that have found fame through two of my favorite subjects: music and science.
Donald “Don” Henley
Native Texan Don Henley is a singer, songwriter and musician most widely known as a founding member of the Eagles. From 1971 to 1980, Henley sang lead vocals on some of the Eagles’ greatest hits, including “Desperado,” “Hotel California,” “Best of My Love,” and “Witchy Woman.” The Eagles have won six Grammy Awards, sold over 120 million albums worldwide, had five #1 hit singles, and six #1 albums. In 1998, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, holding the title of the biggest selling American band in history.
When the Eagles broke up in 1980, Henley furthered his career as a solo artist, releasing his debut album in 1982. Henley proved to hold his own as a solo artist by selling 10 million albums worldwide and winning two Grammy Awards and five MTV Video Music Awards. In 2008, he was ranked the 87th greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. In 1994, Henley was reunited with the Eagles and he continues to tour and record with the group to this day.
Don Henley’s incredible musical talent is not the only reason I would like to meet him, though. Outside of his music career, Henley has made quite a name for himself by supporting other causes, most notably the Walden Woods Project. Henley founded the Walden Woods Project to help protect the land and legacy of author and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who once lived on the northern shore of Walden Woods. In 1993, Henley donated a portion of the sales from the album “Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles” to the Walden Woods Project. In 2005, he and Elton John, among others, held a fundraiser concert to buy Brister’s Hill, which is part of Walden Woods, and turn it into a hiking trail. Henley also co-founded the non-profit Caddo Lake Institute (CLI) in 1993 as part of the Caddo Lake Coalition. CLI helps protect the Texas wetlands of Caddo Lake, where Henley spent a lot of time as a child. In 2000, Henley co-founded the Recording Artists’ Coalition, which was founded in an effort to protect musicians’ rights against commonly flawed music industry business practices.
Robert Woodrow Wilson
Although our conversation could quite possibly be as disastrous as a scene between Penny and Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory,” I would still love to meet native Houstonian Robert Wilson. Wilson is a U.S. physicist and radio astronomer who is most famous for detecting cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) that supported the Big Bang Theory. He shared the 1978 Nobel Prize for Physics with his coworker, Arno Penzias, in light of this discovery.
Wilson began his in-depth study of astronomy and physics at Houston’s Rice University and later received his doctorate at the California Institute of Technology, but his best work began around 1964 when he, in collaboration with Penzias, started monitoring radio emissions from a ring of gas encircling the Milky Way Galaxy. The two scientists were working at Bell’s Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey when they discovered an unusual background radiation that not only indicated a temperature 3 degrees above absolute zero (3 kelvins), but also seemed to consistently permeate the cosmos. They identified this radiation as CMB and concluded that it appeared to support the Big Bang Theory as a remnant of the big bang, which, according to the theory, was the primordial explosion billions of years ago from which the universe originated.
Wilson’s accomplishments did not stop with the discovery of CMB, though. In 1976, Wilson was named head of Bell’s Radio Physics Research Department. He published many works in scientific journals on subjects like background-temperature measurements and millimeter-wave measurements of interstellar molecules. In 1977, Wilson, along with Penzias, won the Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Science, of which he became a member in 1979. Although I may not be able to contribute to a discussion about millimeter-wave measurements of interstellar molecules, I would still love to meet a genius, especially a genius from Texas.