The Bruce Medalists

 

  Photo 2006, courtesy Prof. Sargent
Wallace Leslie William Sargent
15 February 1935 1994 Bruce Medalist 29 October 2012

Wal Sargent was the first person from his high school to attend a university. He studied fluid mechanics at the University of Manchester, but with an eye toward applying it to theoretical problems in astrophysics. He spent nearly all of his career at the California Institute of Technology, where he became a spectroscopist, observing peculiar stars, stars in the galactic halo, and peculiar galaxies and quasars. He was particularly renowned for investigations of quasar absorption lines, which he observed with the Keck, Magellan, Chandra, and Hubble Space Telescopes. He and his colleagues contributed greatly to our knowledge of the intergalactic medium. As director of the Palomar Observatory from 1997-2000, he supervised use of the Hale Telescope to conduct the Norris Survey of large-scale structure in the distribution of galaxies at moderate redshifts, and he used the Samuel Oschin Telescope to conduct the Second Palomar Observatory Sky Survey. His surveys of active galactic nuclei produced evidence that many contain massive black holes. He also worked on the isotropy of the universe by studying angular fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation. Renowned as a teacher and mentor, he was the Ph.D. advisor of a number of noted astronomers, including Alex Filippenko, John Huchra, John Kormendy, Bob O'Connell, Patrick Osmer, Charles Steidel, and Ed Turner.

Personal Web Page
At Caltech

Presentation of Bruce medal
unpublished

Other awards
American Astronomical Society, Helen B. Warner Prize, 1969; Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 2001.
American Institute of Physics & American Astronomical Society, Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, 1991
Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, IAP Medal, 2009.

Biographical materials
Debrett’s People of Today
Sargent, Wallace, interview with Alan Lightman, in Lightman, Alan & Roberta Brawer, Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1990), pp. 120-35.
Sargent, Wallace, Curriculum Vitae

Obituaries
Caltech, 30 October 2012
Carroll, Sean (and others), Discover Magazine blog, 30 October 2012
Los Angeles Times, 10 November 2012
Lynden-Bell, Donald & Max Pettini, Astronomy & Geophysics 54, 2.36 (2014).
The Telegraph, 2 January 2013

Portraits
An earlier portrait, courtesy Caltech
AIP Center for History of Physics
Clemson University Photo Archive in Nuclear Astrophysics

Named after him
Minor Planet #11758 Sargent

More references

The Bruce Medalists


Please send comments, additions, corrections, and questions to
joe.tenn@sonoma.edu
JST
2014-02-06