Pasadena, CA– Dr. George W. Preston of the Carnegie Observatories has been selected by the American Astronomical Society to be the 2009 recipient of its highest distinction: the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship. The Russell Lectureship is awarded each year in recognition of a lifetime of excellence in astronomical research. Preston will deliver the lecture at the 2009 winter meeting of the AAS in Washington, D.C.

The award citation lauds Preston’s “lifetime of research that has transformed our understanding of RR Lyrae variables, stellar magnetic fields and stellar chromospheres, and led to a comprehensive view of the nature, chemistry, kinematics, and metallicity and age distribution in the Galactic stellar halo.”

“George Preston’s work on metal-poor stars in the Milky Way has revolutionized our understanding of the chemical history of the Galaxy,” says Wendy L. Freedman, director of the Carnegie Observatories. “An entire industry has grown up around his seminal work. And all of this has been done with the greatest generosity of spirit, with unparalleled support of younger astronomers, and with incredible energy and enthusiasm. It gives me the sincerest and greatest pleasure to hear that George Preston has received the Russell Lectureship.”

Carnegie President Richard A. Meserve adds, “We are proud that George is a member of the Carnegie family of scientists. I know that the recognition is richly deserved.”

Preston is director emeritus of the Carnegie Observatories. A California native, he received his degree in physics from Yale University and his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a Carnegie Fellow with the Mount Wilson Observatory from 1959 to 1960. In 1965 he won the Helen B. Warner Prize for astronomy from the American Astronomical Society. Preston has been a Carnegie staff member since 1968 and served as director of the Observatories from 1981 to 1986.

Previous Carnegie winners of the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship include Walter Adams, Paul Merrill, Ira Sprague Bowen, Allan Sandage, and Olin Chaddock Wilson of the Carnegie Observatories, and Vera Rubin and George Wetherill of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism.

The Carnegie Institution ( has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments throughout the U.S. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.