Tremaine Follows Bahcall's Stellar Path at the Institute

Linda Arntzenius

Astrophysicist Scott Tremaine is no stranger to the Institute for Advanced Study. The award-winning scientific researcher who has chaired Princeton University's astrophysical sciences department since 1998 was a three-year member at the Institute — one of the world's leading centers of intellectual inquiry — from 1978 until 1981.

At that time the Institute's theoretical astrophysicists were led by John Bahcall, whose death last year left a void that Professor Tremaine's appointment aims to fill. The late John Norris Bahcall (1934-2005) was legendary as a visionary mentor of generations of young astrophysicists and Prof. Tremaine has been appointed to succeed him as the Richard Black Professor of Astrophysics in the Institute's School of Natural Sciences. He will make the move from Princeton University to the Institute next January.

The Institute, said Prof. Tremaine, offers unparalleled opportunities for the development of his own research as well as the opportunity to help exceptional young astrophysical theorists develop their full potential.

"The Institute pursues two very simple goals at the highest possible level: to support research and to develop young researchers," he said. "Institutions with tightly focused goals such as these can exert an influence far out of proportion to their size."

Prof. Tremaine's research focuses on the dynamics of astrophysical systems on a broad range of scales, from comets to clusters of galaxies. He studies the formation and evolution of planetary systems, comets, black holes, star clusters, galaxies, and galaxy systems.

His contributions to science include the prediction of the Kuiper belt of comets beyond the planet Neptune and investigations of the evolution of the solar system and other planetary systems.

He is one of a group of scientists who have discovered that almost every galaxy contains a massive black hole at its center, and that the mass of the black hole is strongly correlated with the dynamics of the surrounding galaxy.

"Scott Tremaine is one of the world's leading scientists, distinguished for his contributions to research, for his academic leadership, and for his ability to communicate his subject to all audiences," said Institute Director Peter Goddard.

"He is widely respected for his exceptional intellectual depth and rigor, his sound judgment and his remarkable ability as a mentor."

According to Dr. Goddard, Prof. Tremaine's appointment should "ensure the continuance of the Institute's unsurpassed reputation as a center for astrophysical research and the development of young astrophysicists."

Prof. Tremaine, who was raised in Toronto and received his undergraduate education at McMaster University, earned a doctorate in physics from Princeton University in 1975, and held postdoctoral fellowships at Caltech and Cambridge University. Following membership at the Institute, he joined the faculty of MIT and was subsequently a professor in the departments of physics and astrophysics at the University of Toronto. As the founding Director of the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics from 1985 to 1996, he is credited with establishing a leading international research center.

A Fellow of the Royal Societies of London and of Canada and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, he is the author (with James Binney) of the 1987 textbook Galactic Dynamics and has contributed over 150 papers to the Astrophysical Journal, Icarus, and other journals. In 1997, he received the 1997 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics.

Professor Tremaine joins the Institute's permanent faculty of 26 scholars in mathematics, historical studies, natural sciences, and social science.

Return to Previous Story | Return to Top | Go to Next Story