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05/17/1995 07:00:00

Three Caltech Professors Elected to Fellowship in AAAS

PASADENA—Caltech faculty members Thomas Ahrens, Paul Jennings, and Anthony Readhead were recently elected to fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest honor societies in North America. The trio brings to 71 the number of Caltech faculty who are fellows of the AAAS.

The academy, founded in 1780 by John Adams and other early American leaders, aims "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." For more than 200 years, fellows of the academy have pursued this purpose by gathering together the country's leading figures from universities, government, business, and the creative arts to exchange ideas and to promote knowledge in the public interest.

Ahrens, a professor of geophysics, earned his BS at MIT, his MS at Caltech, and his PhD at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 1967 he joined the faculty at Caltech, where he studies planetary impacts, conditions in the earth's interior, and the dynamic compaction of materials using high-speed cannons. He is well known in the scientific community for his work on the behavior of matter in the earth's core, and for calculating what risk there is that the earth will be struck by an asteroid and what effect such an impact would have on the planet. He achieved a measure of national fame last summer when his predictions about the effects of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter's atmosphere turned out to be very accurate.

Jennings, a professor of civil engineering and applied mechanics, earned his BS at Colorado State University and both his MS and PhD at Caltech, and joined the faculty in 1966. He is an expert in the design of earthquake-resistant structures and in how the earth moves during a temblor, and he played an active role in the development of California's earthquake standards. He was chair of Caltech's Division of Engineering and Applied Science for four years, and since 1989 has overseen Caltech's academic affairs as vice president and provost. He recently stepped down from this post and is now the acting vice president for business and finance.

Readhead, a professor of astronomy, earned his BSc at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and his PhD at the University of Cambridge, England. In 1977 he joined the faculty at Caltech, where he studies quasars, active galaxies, cosmology, and the microwave background radiation, that faint remnant of the Big Bang. He developed a widely used technique for producing real images with very long baseline interferometry, a procedure in which data from widely separated radio telescopes are combined to produce ultra high-resolution observations. The application of this technique to active galaxies and quasars by Readhead's research group is now laying the foundation for theories of the evolution of active galaxies. His work on the microwave background radiation helped to eliminate many theories of galaxy formation and to focus attention on theories in which a predominant constituent of matter is not composed of protons and neutrons but is "non-baryonic," or dark matter.

Founded in 1891, Caltech has an enrollment of some 2,000 students, and a faculty of about 275 professorial members and more than 400 research members. Caltech has more than 18,300 alumni, and employs a staff of nearly 1,700 people on campus and more than 6,200 at JPL.

Contact: Jay Aller (818) 395-3631

Written by John Avery