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Riccardo Giacconi

National Medal of Science award ceremony, 2003
Born October 6, 1931 (1931-10-06) (age 78)
Genoa, Italy
Residence United States
Nationality Italy
United States
Fields Physics
Institutions Johns Hopkins University
Chandra X-ray Observatory
Alma mater University of Milan
Doctoral advisor  
Doctoral students  
Known for Astrophysics
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (2002)

Riccardo Giacconi (born October 6, 1931) is an Italian/American Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist who laid the foundations of X-ray astronomy.


Born in Genoa, Italy, he received a degree from the University of Milan before moving to the US to pursue a career in astrophysics research. He became an American citizen.[1]

Cosmic X-ray radiation is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, and so space-based telescopes are needed for X-ray astronomy. Giacconi worked on the instrumentation for X-ray astronomy, from rocket-borne detectors in the late 1950s and early 1960s, through to Uhuru, the first orbiting X-ray astronomy satellite, the Einstein Observatory, the first fully imaging X-ray telescope put into space, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory which was launched in 1999 and is still in operation. Giacconi also transferred his expertise to other fields of astronomy, including being the first director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Giacconi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002 "for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources".[2] He has simultaneously held the position of professor of physics and astronomy (1982–1997) and research professor (since 1998) at Johns Hopkins University, and is now University Professor. During this time, he was also Director General of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) (1993–1999). He is currently principal investigator for the Chandra Deep Field-South project with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Honour and awards


  1. ^ Biography on the Nobel Foundation website
  2. ^ Nobel prize citation
  3. ^ Bruce Medal page


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