Lars Hernquist was born in Princeton on December 14, 1954. He received his B.S. in physics from Cornell University in 1977 and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1985. From 1990 to 1998 he was a member of the faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1998 he moved to Harvard University, and since 2009 as the Mallinckrodt Professor of Astrophysics.
Hernquist’s parents emigrated to Princeton from Sweden after World War Two. His father, who had a PhD in Physics, performed research on lasers for RCA. His mother was a stay-at-home parent who performed volunteer work in the community. While Hernquist cites his father’s work as a scientist as an obvious inspiration, he also recalls the influence of his mother, who, when he was not yet a teenager, regularly took him on outings to study the constellations.
Hernquist is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He has published more than 500 peer-reviewed papers, which have been cited more than 70,000 times.