Faculty Type: 
Emeritus Faculty
Professor (Emeritus)

Room 332 Varian Physics Bldg
382 Via Pueblo Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-4060

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Research Interests

Various topics in gravitational astrophysics. Oscillations of accretion disks around black holes, and other signatures of very strong gravitational fields. Sources of gravitational radiation, and their detection by LIGO and other facilities. Scalar-tensor theories of gravitation. Physics of the early universe.

  • Theoretical Gravitational Physics
  • Theoretical Astrophysics
  • Cosmology

Black Hole
This is a computer-generated view of a black hole and its surrounding accretion disk, produced by my former Ph.D. student Chris Perez. The black hole is rotating with an angular momentum 50% of the maximum possible, aligned 30 degrees from the line of sight. The accretion disk is rotating in the same direction in the equatorial plane of the black hole. The intensity (at a fixed wavelength) is color coded from blue (maximum) to red (minimum).


Robert V. Wagoner's scientific direction was established rather suddenly in 1960, when he attended a series of lectures on cosmology by the British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle. At the time, Wagoner was a mechanical engineering undergraduate at Cornell University, receiving his B.M.E. in 1961. Born and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, his other major interest was golf, leading to a position on the Cornell team. 

He switched to physics while at Stanford University, receiving an M.S. in engineering science in 1962 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1965. He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, collaborating with William A. Fowler and Hoyle on the definitive calculation of the abundances of the elements produced in the primordial universe. After three years, he returned to Cornell as a faculty member in the astronomy department. Five years later, he returned to Stanford's physics department, where he is a professor of physics and a member of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.

His academic honors include Sloan Foundation and Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships. In 1976 he was a Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar at Caltech and in 1978 he was the George Ellery Hale Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. Wagoner was also a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in Cambridge, England during the summers of 1967 and 1971. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. 

Professor Wagoner's recent research in theoretical astrophysics focuses on strong gravitational fields in the universe (black holes and neutron stars). This includes relativistic diskoseismology: using the oscillations of the surrounding accretion disk to probe the nature of the central mass. It also includes studies of potential sources of gravitational radiation that may be detected by upcoming facilities such as LIGO. He has also investigated the use of supernovae to determine cosmological distances, and has studied alternative theories of gravitation. 

He lives on the Stanford campus with his wife Stephanie, and has two daughters (Alexa and Shannon) from a previous marriage. His athletic interest evolved from golf to running (five marathons), but has now reversed. 

Selected Publications

  • On the Synthesis of the Elements at Very High Temperatures (with William A. Fowler and Fred Hoyle), The Astrophysical Journal 148, 3 (1967).
  • Cosmological Element Production, Science 155, 1369 (1967).
  • Some Effects of an Intervening Galaxy on the Radiation from Very Distant Objects, The Astrophysical Journal 149, 465 (1967).
  • Physics of Massive Objects, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 7, 553 (1969).
  • Scalar-Tensor Theory and Gravitational Waves, Physical Review D1, 3209 (1970).
  • Relativistic Disks. I. Uniform Rotation (with James M. Bardeen), The Astrophysical Journal 167, 359 (1971).
  • Big Bang Nucleosynthesis Revisited, The Astrophysical Journal 179, 343 (1973). 
  • Aligned Rotating Magnetospheres. I. General Analysis (with Ernst T. Scharlemann), The Astrophysical Journal 182, 951 (1973). 
  • Test for the Existence of Gravitational Radiation, The Astrophysical Journal (Letters) 196, L63 (1975). 
  • Post-Newtonian Gravitational Radiation from Orbiting Point Masses (with Clifford Will), The Astrophysical Journal 210, 764 (1976). 
  • Determining qo from Supernovae, The Astrophysical Journal (Letters) 214, L5 (1977). 
  • Multi-mode Detection of Gravitational Waves by a Sphere (with Ho Jung Paik), in Experimental Gravitation; Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome (1977).
  • Effects of Scattering on Continuum Radiation from Supernovae and Determination of Their Distances, The Astrophysical Journal (Letters) 250, L65 (1981).
  • Cosmic Horizons (with Donald Goldsmith), W.H. Freeman & Co. (1982). 
  • Gravitational Radiation from Accreting Neutron Stars, The Astrophysical Journal 278, 345 (1984).
  • Amplification and Polarization of Supernovae by Gravitational Lensing (with Peter Schneider), The Astrophysical Journal 314, 154 (1987).
  • Determining the Properties of Accretion-gap Neutron Stars (with Wlodek Kluzniak and Peter Michelson), The Astrophysical Journal 358, 538 (1990).
  • Green Function for Metric Perturbations due to Cosmological Density Fluctuations (with Mark Jacobs and Eric Linder), Physical Review D48, 4623 (1993).
  • Scalar--Tensor Theories and Gravitational Radiation (with Dimitri Kalligas), in Relativistic Gravitation and Gravitational Radiation, edited by J.-A. Marck and J.-P. Lasota; Cambridge University Press (1997). 
  • Relativistic Diskoseismology. I. Analytical Results for Gravity Modes (with C.A. Perez, A.S. Silbergleit, and D.E. Lehr), The Astrophysical Journal 476, 589 (1997). 
  • The 67 Hz Feature in the Black Hole Candidate GRS 1915+105 as a Posssible Diskoseismic Mode (with M.A. Nowak, M.C. Begelman, and D.E. Lehr), The Astrophysical Journal (Letters) 477, L91 (1997). 
  • Relativistic Diskoseismology,Physics Reports 311, 259 (1999). 
  • "Stable" Quasi-periodic Oscillations and Black Hole Properties from Diskoseismology (with Alex Silbergleit and Manuel Ortega-Rodriguez), The Astrophysical Journal (Letters) 559, L25 (2001).
  • Conditions for Steady Gravitational Radiation from Accreting Neutron Stars, The Astrophysical Journal (Letters) 578, L63 (2002).
  • A Sub-horizon Framework for Probing the Relationship between the Cosmological Matter Distribution and Metric Perturbations (with Mustafa Amin and Roger Blandford), Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 390, p. 131-142 (2008).
  • Diskoseismology and QPOs Confront Black Hole Spin, The Astrophysical Journal (Letters) 752, L18 (2012).

Recent Graduate Students

Black hole image12.53 KB