Roger Blandford Receives Royal Astronomical Society's Top Honor

By by Lori Ann White
January 14, 2013

Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society has named Stanford University Physics Professor Roger Blandford as the 2013 winner of the Society’s highest honor, the Gold Medal. Blandford directs the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, which is jointly run by Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and is a professor of particle physics and astrophysics at SLAC.

Up to two Gold Medals are presented annually, one for extraordinary lifetime achievement in astronomy and another for the same in geophysics. Blandford was selected to receive the 2013 astronomy medal on the basis of “his varied and inspirational contributions to theoretical astrophysics, as well as his service to the astrophysics research community at an international level.”

The accompanying citation calls out Blandford’s many contributions to theoretical astrophysics, including work that helped decipher the high-energy processes powering supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies and lay the groundwork for the current model of cosmic jets. He has also studied relativistic effects in neutron stars and binary systems, the extraction of energy from black holes and the analysis of gravitational lensing, “an important tool for probing the nature of the as yet unidentified dark matter found throughout the universe,” the citation stated.

Also cited are less tangible qualities that have earned Blandford the respect of his colleagues and a leadership role in the field, including fellowships in the Royal Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Astronomical Society. Blandford served as chair of Astro2010: The Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, which provided valuable guidance for the future path of astrophysics research in the United States and worldwide.

“I am overwhelmed but delighted by this quite unexpected recognition,” Blandford said. “It makes me realize just how fortunate I am to be working at a time of great discovery in astrophysics and cosmology and to be grateful to my wonderful teachers, collaborators and students."

David MacFarlane, director of SLAC’s Particle Physics and Astrophysics Directorate, added his congratulations. “This is a wonderful and very appropriate recognition of Roger's research contributions and leadership in the astrophysics community, including his establishment at Stanford and SLAC of KIPAC as a world-leading institution in particle astrophysics and cosmology.”

See the official announcement from the Royal Astronomical Society.

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KIPAC Director Roger Blandford. (Credit: Brad Plummer)