Geoffrey W. Marcy
Professor of Astronomy, University of California at Berkeley
In the last years of the 20th century, after decades of search, astronomers succeeded in detecting planets around other stars. More than a hundred extra-solar planets have now been discovered, and research has shifted to understanding the nature of these new solar systems, and the ways in which they resemble and contrast with our own. Are our own solar system and planet Earth special, or are they common in the Universe? And are habitats for life as we know it common as well? Geoffrey W. Marcy, Professor of Astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley, in collaboration with his team of planet-finders, pioneered discovery of extra-solar planets, and have found most of those we now know. Among the planets he and this team have discovered are the first multiple-planet solar system and the first planets with masses as small as Neptune and Uranus. Recently, Professor Marcy has contributed to the discovery of a new class of Neptune-sized planets with masses only 10-20 times that of Earth. Such planets may be gaseous like Jupiter, or may even be rocky planets like Earth.
Professor Marcy is a gifted lecturer, and receives numerous invitations worldwide to address not only groups of astronomers and scientists but also to present distinguished lectures to broader public audiences. He regularly fills large auditoriums with enthusiastic listeners. They are never disappointed. He received the Carl Sagan Award from the American Astronomical Society and the Planetary Society for his contributions to public understanding of science, and he has made many appearances in the media, including the McNeil Lehrer News Hour, ABC Nightline, the NBC Today Show, the CBS Nightly News, and the Late Show with David Letterman.
The Physics committee of the Swedish Academy of Science recognized Professor Marcy's contribution to astronomy with the Manne Siegbahn Award in 1996. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences awarded him the prestigious Henry Draper Medal in 2001, citing pioneering investigations of planets orbiting other stars. Professor Marcy was California Scientist of the Year in 2000, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2002. He received the Beatrice Tinsley Award from the American Astronomical Society in 2003, as well as the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Discover Magazine selected him as Space Scientist of the Year in 2004.
Professor Marcy graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1976, with degrees in both Physics and Astronomy. He earned his PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1982, and carried out research at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and San Francisco State University before moving to the University of California at Berkeley in 1997.
With the large number of extra-solar planets now known, Professor March has founded a new branch of astronomy: the study of the physical characteristics of the planets and their solar systems. Professor Marcy is the first director of the Center for Integrative Planetary Science at UC-Berkeley, designed to study the formation, geophysics, chemistry, and evolution of planets. The properties of the planets so far discovered differ remarkably from the familiar planets of our own Sun. Huge planets, Jupiter-sized and even larger, orbit closer to their suns than does Mercury, the closest planet in our own solar system. And unlike our solar system's planets, the orbits of most known extra-solar planets are far from circular.
Professor Marcy is a scholar of extraordinary national and international distinction who has made a contribution to human knowledge of transcendent value. He has opened the imaginations of people throughout the globe with his visions of worlds beyond our own.