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2005 Gruber Cosmology Prize Press Release

James Gunn Headshot
James Gunn

James Gunn Wins International Cosmology Award

Peter Gruber Foundation Cites Princeton Professor for Fundamental Contributions to Astronomical Research

St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. November, 2005 - James E. Gunn, Eugene Higgins Professor of Astronomy at Princeton University, and a central and legendary figure in all three of the main areas of astronomy research -- theory, observation, and instrumentation -- was selected by an international panel of experts to receive the 2005 Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation.

The Foundation annually presents its gold medal and a $200,000 unrestricted cash award to an outstanding scientist or scientists who have made groundbreaking contributions in the field of cosmology. This year's award was presented on November 4 at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, where Nicholas Copernicus completed his early education.

Gunn, 66, was born in Livingstone, Texas, and received a B.A. in Physics and Mathematics from Rice University and a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Physics from California Institute of Technology. He began his career with a series of remarkable and lasting contributions to the most diverse fields of astrophysics. His early work concerned the theoretical development of galaxy formation, the properties of the gaseous medium between galaxies, and the presence of dark matter in galaxies.

He later focused on astronomical instrumentation and space optical astronomy and played a central role is several observational projects. He was Deputy Principal Investigator for the design and construction of the Wide Field/Planetary Camera on the Hubble Space Telescope. In addition to its many scientific contributions, WF/PC captured the incredibly beautiful images that cemented respect for the Hubble Telescope in the minds of the public and the astronomy community. He also conceived of, and was the primary force behind, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the most extensive project ever for three-dimensional mapping of the universe, and he designed and built the innovative and unique camera that allowed the project to go forward. The SDSS has discovered an astonishing variety of astronomical objects ranging from nearby brown dwarfs to the most distant quasars. Gunn's career has continually broken new ground and offered unprecedented opportunities to other cosmologists.

"James Gunn's record of achievement over more than four decades is remarkable," said Peter Gruber, chairman of the Peter Gruber Foundation. "He has had a profound and innovative influence on the field, and we are extremely pleased to honor him with this year's Cosmology Prize."

The Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation is one of the premier international prizes in the field. Last year's prizewinners were Professors Alan Guth, MIT, and Andrei Linde, Stanford University, for their work on the theory of cosmic inflation; in 2003 the Foundation honored Professor Rashid Sunyaev, a leading Russian astrophysicist and pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy. Dr. Vera Rubin, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, received the prize in 2002. The recipient in 2001 was Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom and Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University. Recipients of the inaugural prize in 2000 were Professor Allan R. Sandage, Staff Astronomer Emeritus, The Observatories (Pasadena, California) Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Dr. Phillip J.E. Peebles, the Albert Einstein Professor of Physics at Princeton University.

A distinguished Advisory Board selected the Cosmology Prize recipient for 2005 after a worldwide solicitation of candidates. Current members of the Advisory Board are: Dr. John Ball of the Mathematical Institute, Oxford; Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell of Oxford University, U.K.; Dr. Peter Galison of Harvard University; Dr. James Peebles of Princeton University; Dr. Katsuhiko Sato, Director, Research Center for the Early Universe at the University of Tokyo; Dr. Simon D. M. White, Director, Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Germany; and Dr. Robert Williams, Distinguished Research Scholar at the Space Telescope Science Institute in the U.S. Dr. Owen Gingerich of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Dr. Virginia Trimble of the University of California at Irvine serve as special cosmology advisors to the Foundation.

Affiliation with International Astronomical Union

In 2000, the Peter Gruber Foundation and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced an agreement by which the IAU provides its expertise and contacts with professional astronomers worldwide for the nomination and selection of Cosmology Prize winners. Under the agreement, the Peter Gruber Foundation also funds a fellowship program for young astronomers, with the aim of promoting the continued recruitment of new talent into the field.

The International Astronomical Union, founded in 1919, is an organization of professional astronomers. It serves today a membership of more than 9,000 individual astronomers from 85 countries, worldwide. Information about the activities of the IAU is available from

The Peter Gruber Foundation
The Peter Gruber Foundation was founded in 1993 and established a record of charitable giving principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it is located. In recent years the Foundation has expanded its focus to a series of international awards recognizing discoveries and achievements that produce fundamental shifts in human knowledge and culture.