Nicholas Kaiser was born on September 15, 1954, in Sheffield, England. He received his B.Sc. in physics from Leeds University in 1978, his Part III in Maths at the University of Cambridge in 1979, and his Ph.D. in astronomy from Cambridge in 1982. He performed his postdoctoral work at the University of California Santa Barbara, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of Cambridge. After a ten-year professorship at the University of Toronto, he accepted a position as an astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. He is now a professor at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.
Kaiser’s parents, as he recalls, were staunchly socialist. Perhaps at least equally important in his intellectual and psychological development, his father was a physicist—the embodiment of an academic life the young Nick rejected at the age of 16 by dropping out of high school. Kaiser enrolled in an art college instead, but after his first year, as he says, “I discovered I didn’t have any talent.” One day a friend passed along The Richard Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume 1, and Kaiser “got a glimpse” of why his father sometimes seemed so lost in thought at the dinner table.
Among other honors, Kaiser has received the Helen Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the Rutherford Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, and, in 2008, a fellowship from the Royal Society of London.