Remembering Riccardo Giacconi: A Titan of the Heroic Age of Astronomy

Jan 09, 2019 121

Riccardo Giacconi, the “Father of X-ray Astronomy,” Nobel Prize winner and one of the most influential figures of modern astrophysics, died in December at the age of 87. Over a career spanning more than five decades in time and 10 orders of magnitude in wavelength, Riccardo opened up new windows for observing the universe, and revolutionized the way "big astronomy" is done at major observatories, from the Hubble Space Telescope to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). In 2002, Riccardo was awarded half of the Nobel Prize in Physics for “pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic x-ray sources.”

Riccardo was well-versed in the classics, and often spoke of being driven, like Odysseus, to pursue virtue and knowledge. We three were privileged to accompany him in one way or another on his epic journey as colleagues and friends beginning in the late 1960s when, still in our 20s, we came together at American Science and Engineering (AS&E) in Cambridge, Mass.

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