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03/15/2001 08:00:00

Caltech Professor Receives American Astronomical Society's Highest Honor

PASADENA, Calif.— The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has awarded Wallace L. W. Sargent, the Ira S. Bowen Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology and former director of Palomar Observatory, with the AAS's highest honor, the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship. This honor, which is given annually by the AAS, recognizes "a lifetime of eminence in astronomical research."

The 2001 Henry Norris Russell Lectureship was awarded to Sargent specifically for his contributions to astronomical spectroscopy. His work in the stellar spectroscopy of A-type stars led to the discovery of the He3 isotope in the star 3 Centauri. Sargent has involved many of his students in his work in extragalactic spectroscopy, which produced the first evidence for a black hole in the galaxy M87. Considered by the scientific community a world authority on intergalactic gas, Sargent's renowned work has provided primary insight into the detection of primeval gas in the early universe.

Born in Elsham, Lincolnshire, England, Sargent was educated at Manchester University in England, earning his bachelor of science degree in physics in 1956, his master's degree in astrophysics in 1957, and his doctorate in astrophysics in 1959.

Sargent has been affiliated with Caltech since 1959, serving as executive officer for astronomy for over seven years. Throughout his career, Sargent also has been a visiting fellow at international academic institutions such as the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy at Cambridge University, the Department of Astrophysics at Oxford University, and the Institut d'Astrophysique in Paris.

In 1997, Sargent was appointed to the position of director of Palomar Observatory, near San Diego. He served until 2000, and then returned to full-time teaching at Caltech. Sargent has many professional affiliations and has been the recipient of numerous distinguished honors and awards throughout his career.

Contact: Deborah Williams-Hedges (626) 395-3227

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Written by Deborah Williams-Hedges