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Who Was Riccardo Giacconi?



Riccardo GiacconiRiccardo Giacconi was born in Italy in 1931 and earned his Ph.D. in cosmic ray physics at the University of Milan. He worked at the private company American Science and Engineering, and then at the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory before becoming the first director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, from 1981 to 1993. From 1993 to 1999 he directed the European Southern Observatory, and then became president of Associated Universities Inc., the operator of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics — an honor seldom given for achievements in astronomy.

Giacconi wanted to name the Einstein X-ray satellite "Pequod" after the ship in Melville’s novel Moby Dick. NASA, however, declined to associate its satellite with the quest for a white whale. Comparison of Giacconi and the Pequod’s Captain Ahab, that unrelenting visionary, suggest the qualities needed to drive a large and complex scientific project to completion.

You can visit Riccardo Giacconi's home page online.

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