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Peter Goldreich

in recognition of his lifetime achievements in theoretical astrophysics and planetary sciences.


Professor Peter Goldreich of Caltech and the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study is awarded the Shaw Prize in Astronomy 2007 in recognition of his lifetime achievements in theoretical astrophysics and planetary sciences. The variety, depth and breadth of his most important contributions are staggering: the effects of orbital resonances in the solar system, planetary rings, and extrasolar planets; the importance of swing amplification in the explanations of the origin of spiral structure in disk galaxies; the mechanisms by which interstellar masers are produced and can be diagnosed; the electrodynamics of pulsars; the character of the astrophysical turbulence that arises in helioseismology and interstellar scintillation; and the role of the Galilean satellite Io as a source of low-frequency radio bursts from the planet Jupiter. Goldreich is universally regarded as one of the most influential and admired theorists in modern astronomy; indeed, the quality of his work, insights, and accomplishments set the gold standard for the field.

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An Essay on the Prize

The past fifty years represent a golden age for astronomy. Exciting new discoveries occurred across a wide range of phenomena. Our intellectual horizons expanded correspondingly. At the edge of that expansion, often creating mighty explosions of his own, one invariably finds Peter Goldreich.

Goldreich’s career began auspiciously with his explanation, with Peale, of the role of resonances in the solar system. This understanding formed the basis for the later successful prediction that volcanoes would exist on Io. When the motion of Io was found to correlate with intense decametric radio emission from Jupiter, Goldreich and Lynden-Bell put forth an elegant explanation that relied on the presence of a million-ampere tube of electric current flowing between Io and Jupiter’s magnetosphere, a prediction that was later confirmed by direct satellite imaging of the hot spot in Jupiter’s atmosphere that is linked magnetically to Io.

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About the Laureates
Peter Goldreich

Peter Goldreich, born 1939 is currently a Professor of the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and the Lee A DuBridge Professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He became emeritus professor at Caltech in 2003.

Professor Goldreich was born in New York, USA. He received his BS in Engineering Physics from Cornell University in 1960 and his PhD in Physics in 1963. Before joining the faculty at Caltech, he was an assistant professor of Astronomy and Geophysics at the University of California, Los Angeles, from 1964 to 1966. He is a member of US National Academy of Sciences.

Feature Story
The Shaw Prize Lecture in Astronomy 2007