Press Release

Charles Alcock Named Director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

By SpaceRef Editor
May 18, 2004
Filed under ,

The Smithsonian Institution and Harvard University jointly announced the
appointment of Dr. Charles R. Alcock as director of the Harvard-Smithsonian
Center for Astrophysics, effective Aug. 1.

Alcock is the Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics in the
Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. His
primary research interests are massive compact halo objects, comets and

“With his skills, experience and expertise, Dr. Alcock is well suited to
lead the Center for Astrophysics to new levels of excellence,” said Lawrence
Small, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. “We’re fortunate to have
such a distinguished scientist joining the Center, one of the largest and
most diverse astrophysical research organizations in the world.”

“Charles Alcock is an extraordinary astrophysicist and scientific
administrator,” said Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers. “I greatly look
forward to working with him as we develop the university’s program in

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a
joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO)
and the Harvard College Observatory (HCO). As the new CfA Director, Alcock
will manage a staff of more than 900 employees (including more than 300
scientists) and an annual budget of about $110 million.

Alcock will hold several titles- Director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center
for Astrophysics, Director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,
Director of the Harvard College Observatory, and Professor of Astronomy at
Harvard University.

Alcock is the principal investigator for the Taiwan-America Occultation
Survey, a project aimed at taking a census of the solar system’s population
of Kuiper Belt objects (objects located beyond the orbit of Neptune). He
also chairs the Observatories Council of the Association of Universities for
Research in Astronomy Inc.

In 2001, Alcock was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the
highest honors that can be accorded a scientist. He received the 2000
Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize from the American Astronomical Society and the
1996 E.O. Lawrence Award in physics. Both awards recognized his pioneering
work as principal investigator on the major U.S. project to search for
massive compact halo objects and estimate their contribution to the dark
matter component of the Milky Way’s halo.

Alcock received his doctorate in astronomy and physics in 1977 from the
California Institute of Technology. He began his career as long-term member
at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. (1977-1981). He was
associate professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(1981-1986) before joining Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
(1986-2000), where he directed the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary

Harvard College Observatory, founded in 1839, is a research institution of
the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. HCO provides
facilities and other support for teaching activities of the Harvard
Department of Astronomy. SAO, founded in 1890, is the largest research
center of the Smithsonian Institution in terms of both staffing and budget.
SAO moved from Washington D.C. to Cambridge in 1955. The relationship
between HCO and SAO was formalized by the establishment of a joint center in

“Dr. Alcock is widely regarded as a fine teacher and mentor, dedicated
researcher and experienced leader,” said David Evans, Under Secretary for
Science at the Smithsonian Institution. “All of those qualities will benefit
the CfA as he takes the helm.” SAO is one of the science organizations that
reports to Evans.

CfA facilities include:

* Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, Mt. Hopkins, Arizona – the largest
field station of the SAO

* MMT Observatory – a joint venture of the SAO and the University of
Arizona, located on the grounds of Whipple Observatory

* Submillimeter Array, Mauna Kea, Hawaii – a collaboration between the SAO
and the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Academia Sinica of

* Magellan Telescopes, Las Campanas, Chile – twin 6.5-meter-diameter optical
telescopes operated for a consortium which includes Harvard University

* Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory

* Oak Ridge Observatory, Harvard, Mass.

CfA scientists are organized into six research divisions: Atomic and
Molecular Physics; High Energy Astrophysics; Optical and Infrared Astronomy;
Radio and Geoastronomy; Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences; and
Theoretical Astrophysics.

Alcock succeeds Dr. Irwin Shapiro, who has been the CfA Director since 1983.
Shapiro will remain at the CfA as the Timken University Professor at Harvard
University and as Senior Scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical

SpaceRef staff editor.