The Bruce Medalists


  photo Photo 1983, Space Telescope Science Institute
Riccardo Giacconi
6 October 1931 1981 Bruce Medalist 9 December 2018

Born in Genoa, Italy, Riccardo Giacconi earned his Ph.D. in cosmic ray physics at the University of Milan and then spent brief postdoctoral periods at Indiana and Princeton Universities. In 1959 he joined American Science and Engineering, a Massachusetts research firm, where he began work on X-ray astronomy. His team developed grazing incidence X-ray telescopes and launched them on rockets. In 1962 they discovered Sco X-1, the first known X-ray source outside the solar system. They then built the UHURU orbiting X-ray observatory and made the first surveys of the X-ray sky. They discovered 339 X-ray “stars”, most of which turned out to be due to matter falling into black holes and neutron stars. Among these was Cygnus X-1, the first object to be widely accepted as a black hole. They also discovered the X-ray emission by hot gas in clusters of galaxies. Giacconi continued to work on the X-ray background radiation for many years using a number of satellite observatories. Joining the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 1973, Giacconi led the construction and successful operation of the powerful X-ray observatory, HEAO-2, also known as Einstein, which made detailed images of X-ray sources. Giacconi was the first director of the Space Telescope Science Institute from 1981 to 1993, and he directed the European Southern Observatory for the next six years. At ESO he oversaw the development and construction of the Very Large Telescope. From 1999 to 2004 he served as president of Associated Universities, Inc., the operator of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In this position he was involved in the development of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a huge millimeter and submillimeter wavelength array being built at high altitude in Chile by a team of European, American, and Japanese institutions. Giacconi simultaneously held positions as professor of physics and astronomy (1982-97) and research professor (from 1998) at Johns Hopkins University.

Presentation of Bruce medal
Mercury 10, 182 (1981)

Other awards
American Association of Physics Teachers, Richtmeyer Memorial Award, 1975.
American Astronomical Society, Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy, 1966; Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 1981.
American Institute of Physics & American Astronomical Society, Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, 1981.
Astronomische Gesellschaft, Karl Schwarzschild Medal, 2004.
Franklin Institute, Elliot Cresson medal, 1980.
International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics, Marcel Grossmann Award, 2000
National Science Foundation, Nobel prize, physics, 2002.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1982.
Wolf Foundation, Wolf Prize, 1987.

Biographical materials
International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics, presentation of “Laurea Honoris Causa,” [in Italian]
Giacconi, Riccardo, “An Education in Astronomy,” Ann. Rev. Astr. Astrophys. 43, 1-30 (2005)
Giacconi, Riccardo, Autobiography on receiving the Nobel Prize, 2002.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory press release, Riccardo Giacconi to Become President of AUI, 1999.
Ultimate Italy
Vega Science Trust, interview with Dr. Giacconi (2004 video)

European Southern Observatory, December 2018.
Overbye, Dennis, New York Times, 13 December 2018.
Space Telescope Science Institute, 10 December 2018
Tucker, Wallace, Chandra X-ray Observatory, 13 December 2018.

AIP Center for History of Physics (several)
Hubble Site News Release
National Medal of Science Award, 2003 (with U.S. President)
9th Marcel Grossmann Awards
WXOW, 2009

Named after him
Minor Planet #3371 Giacconi

More references

The Bruce Medalists

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