Barish received his bachelor’s and doctorate in physics at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1957 and 1962, respectively. He was a research fellow at Berkeley from 1962 to 1963 and then became a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), becoming professor emeritus in 2005. In 2018 he began teaching at the University of California, Riverside. Barish began his career in high-energy physics. He worked on experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and in the 1980s he became involved in the search for magnetic monopoles. He also headed a team to design an experiment for the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), a giant particle accelerator to be built in Texas, but the U.S. Congress cancelled that project in 1993.