Riccardo Giacconi

Riccardo Giacconi

American physicist of Italian origin, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002.
Date of Birth: 06.10.1931
Country: Italy

  1. Biography of Riccardo Giacconi
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Professional Career
  4. Contributions to Science
  5. Nobel Prize and Awards

Biography of Riccardo Giacconi

Early Life and Education

Riccardo Giacconi was born into a family of Italian origin in the United States. His parents were Antonio Giacconi, a small business owner, and his wife Elsa Canni Giacconi, a physics and mathematics teacher. When Giacconi was eight years old, his parents divorced, and he went to live with his mother in Milan. He completed his dissertation in 1954 at the University of Milan and secured a position as an assistant professor of physics there.

Professional Career

In 1956, Giacconi moved to the State University of Indiana in Bloomington and then to Princeton University in 1958. From 1959 onwards, he worked at the American Science and Technology Corporation (ASTC) in Cambridge, a company founded by Bruno Rossi to conduct research using government funding. Giacconi became a member of the company's board of directors in 1966 and Vice President in 1969. In 1973, he joined the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as Deputy Director of the High Energy Astrophysics Division in Cambridge. Since 1981, he has served as the Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Giacconi also held positions as a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Milan from 1991 to 1999 and as the Director General of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, from 1993 to 1999. In 1999, he returned to the United States and became the President of the United Universities of Washington and a research professor at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Contributions to Science

Giacconi's early career was marked by a series of failures. However, his work at ASTC provided him with a fresh start, and the years he spent there were the most productive of his life. From 1959 to 1962, he participated in the development of 23 research rockets, six satellites, and one airplane flight. On June 12, 1962, the high-altitude research rocket Aerobee was launched with an X-ray detector on board. While the mission to photograph the Moon in X-rays was not successful due to the insufficient sensitivity of the detectors at the time, the team discovered a bright object in the constellation Scorpius, known as Scorpius X-1. Giacconi's next project was the Uhuru X-ray satellite, which was launched in 1970 and provided the first complete X-ray survey of the sky. A total of 339 objects were detected in the 2 to 6 keV range. In 1978, the Einstein Observatory, another X-ray satellite, was launched.

From 1981 to 1993, Giacconi was responsible for the development and construction of the Hubble Space Telescope. He also played a significant role in the ROSAT X-ray satellite project by securing American involvement and a free launch. His efforts in promoting international collaboration were crucial for securing funding from the German Ministry for Research and Technology.

Nobel Prize and Awards

In recognition of his contributions to X-ray astronomy, particularly the discovery of Scorpius X-1, Giacconi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002. Throughout his career, he received numerous other honors and awards, including the Fulbright Fellowship, the NASA Medal for Outstanding Scientific Achievement and Distinguished Service, the Wolf Prize in Physics, and the Royal Society's Gold Medal.

Riccardo Giacconi is married to Mirella Giacconi, whom he has known since their school days. They have two daughters, Gina and Anna.