The General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), meeting
in Sydney (Australia), has appointed the ESO Director General, Dr. Catherine
Cesarsky, as President Elect for a three-year period (2003-2006). The IAU is
the world’s foremost organisation for astronomy, uniting almost 9000
professional scientists on all continents.

The IAU General Assembly also elected Prof. Ron Ekers (Australia) as
President (2003 – 2006). Dr. Cesarsky will then become President of the IAU
in 2006, when the General Assembly next meets in Prague (The Czech Republic).
Dr. Cesarsky is the first woman scientist to receive this high distinction.

“The election of Catherine Cesarsky as President-Elect of the IAU is an
important recognition for a scientist who has made impressive contributions
to various areas of modern astrophysics, from cosmic rays to the interstellar
medium and cosmology”, commented the outgoing IAU President, Prof. Franco
Pacini. “It is also an honour and an important accolade for the European
astronomical community in general and ESO in particular.”

Dr. Cesarsky, who assumed the function as ESO Director General in 1999, was
born in France. She received a degree in Physical Sciences at the University
of Buenos Aires and graduated with a PhD in Astronomy in 1971 from Harvard
University (Cambridge, Mass., USA). Afterwards she worked at the California
Institute of Technology (CALTECH).

In 1974, she became a staff member of the Service d’Astrophysique (SAp),
Direction des Sciences de la Matiere (DSM), Commissariat a l’Energie
Atomique (CEA) (France). As Director of DSM (1994 – 1999), she was leading
about 3000 scientists, engineers and technicians active within a broad
spectrum of basic research programmes in physics, chemistry, astrophysics and
earth sciences.

Dr. Cesarsky is known for her successful research activities in several
central areas of modern astrophysics. She first worked on the theory of
cosmic ray propagation and acceleration, and galactic gamma-ray emission.
Later, she led the design and construction of the ISOCAM camera onboard the
Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) of the European Space Agency (ESA), and the
ISOCAM Central Programme which studied the infrared emission from many
different galactic and extragalactic sources. This has led to new and
exciting results on star formation and galactic evolution, and in the
identification of the sources providing the bulk of the energy in the Cosmic
Infrared Background.

As ESO Director General, she has been a driving force towards the realisation
of the full potential of ESO’s unique Very Large Telescope (VLT) and its
associated interferometer (VLTI), and also towards the recent European-North
American agreement on the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA).

Dr. Cesarsky received the COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) Space Science
Award in 1998.

She is married and has two children.