Riccardo Giacconi

National Medal of Science

Physical Sciences

For his pioneering research in X-ray astronomy and for his leadership of major astronomy facilities.

For his pioneering research in X-ray astronomy and for his leadership of major astronomy facilities.

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Birth
October 6, 1931
Age Awarded
72
Country of Birth
Italy
Key Contributions
Invented Field Of X-Ray Astronomy
Awarded by
George W. Bush
Education
University of Milan
Areas of Impact
Communication & Information
Affiliations
Johns Hopkins University
Other Prizes
Nobel Prize
F

For astrophysicist Riccardo Giacconi, from a young age academics and tumult often went hand in hand. He read voraciously to pass the time during bombing runs as a teenager in World War II-era Italy, and Giacconi always had a difficult time in school, often struggling with discipline.

It was not until he entered the University of Milan that Giacconi discovered work that he both loved and excelled at: research on the interactions of subatomic particles. This early research would lay the groundwork for his later breakthroughs in the field of X-ray astronomy, in which scientists measure celestial electromagnetism and make inferences about the nature of the universe.

After moving to the U.S. in 1956, Giacconi became instrumental in the construction and operation of the first space-based X-ray telescopes, leading to breakthroughs such as the discovery of the first black hole. He has also directed science operations for Hubble Space Telescope and helped launch NASA’s flagship X-ray telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory in 1999.

Giacconi’s work was essential to the field of astrophysics and because of his contributions to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002.

By Jeremy Gordon

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