Riccardo Giacconi, very recently retired President of Associated
Universities, Inc. (AUI), will be awarded the National Medal of Science
by President George W. Bush on March 14, according to the White House.

Giacconi, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002, will be
honored for his pioneering research in X-ray astronomy and for his
visionary leadership of major astronomy facilities.

Established by Congress in 1959, the National Medal of Science is the
Nation’s highest honor for American scientists and is awarded annually
by the President of the United States to individuals “deserving of
special recognition for their outstanding contributions to knowledge.”

“We are extremely proud that Riccardo Giacconi has been selected to
receive the nation’s highest award for scientific achievement,” said
current AUI President Ethan J. Schreier, a long-term colleague of Dr.
Giacconi. “It is another fitting recognition for an outstanding
scientific career that has enhanced our basic understanding of the
universe,” Schreier added.

Giacconi, known as the father of X-ray astronomy, used X-ray detectors
launched on rockets to discover the first cosmic X-ray source in 1962.
Because X-ray radiation is absorbed in Earth’s atmosphere, space-based
instruments are necessary to study it. Giacconi outlined a methodical
program to investigate this new X-ray universe and, working with his
research group at American Science and Engineering, Inc. in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, developed the first space satellite dedicated to the new
field of X-ray astronomy. Named Uhuru, this X-ray satellite observatory
was launched in 1970 and subsequently discovered hundreds of X-ray
sources. The ground-breaking work of Giacconi and his group led to the
discovery of black holes, which to that point had been hypothesized but
never seen. Giacconi was also the first to prove that the universe
contains background radiation of X-ray light.

Riccardo Giacconi has played a key role in many other landmark astronomy
programs. He was the Principal Investigator for the Einstein
Observatory, the first imaging X-ray observatory, and led the team that
proposed the current Chandra X-ray Observatory. He became the first
director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, responsible for
conducting the science program of the Hubble Space Telescope. He later
moved to Germany to become Director-General of the European Southern
Observatory (ESO), building the Very Large Telescope, an array of four
8-meter telescopes in Chile. While Director-General of ESO, Giacconi
initiated a new cooperative program between the United States, ESO, and
Canada to develop and build a large array of antennas for radio
astronomy, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), in northern Chile.

Giacconi was President of AUI from 1999 to 2004, managing the
world-class National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), an astronomical
research facility of the National Science Foundation. During his tenure,
Giacconi’s scientific vision dramatically advanced the observatory’s
capabilities. NRAO began the construction of ALMA in Chile and also the
Expansion of the Very Large Array (EVLA) in New Mexico, opening new
scientific frontiers across the entire radio spectrum.

“I am delighted that Riccardo Giacconi has received this recognition,”
said NRAO Director Fred K.Y. Lo. “The value and impact of the
multi-wavelength astronomy which he enabled has been nothing short of
revolutionary. This honor recognizes Giacconi’s contributions to
astronomy and the broader scientific community.”

Dr. Giacconi is currently a University Professor at Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore, and remains a Distinguished Advisor to the
Trustees of Associated Universities, Inc.