Press Release

ESO Director General to Become President of AUI

3 November 1998

The appointment of Professor Riccardo Giacconi, Director General of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) since January 1, 1993, to the Presidency of Associated Universities, Inc. ( AUI ) in the USA, has been jointly announced by Professor Paul C. Martin, Chair of AUI's Board of Trustees and Mr. Henrik Grage, President of the ESO Council. Professor Giacconi will assume this new position at the end of his term at ESO as of July 1, 1999.

AUI is a not-for-profit science management corporation that operates the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) under a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF). Corporate headquarters are located in Washington, D.C. The President is its chief executive officer.

Nine northeastern universities joined in founding AUI in 1946: Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard University, The Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, the University of Rochester, and Yale University. Over the years, AUI has taken on a broad national character with a diversified Board of Trustees from universities and other institutions across the United States.

ESO is an intergovernmental organization, at present with the following member countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. Portugal has an agreement with ESO aiming at full membership. ESO was founded in 1962 to establish and operate an astronomical observatory in the southern hemisphere and to promote and organize co-operation in astronomical research in Europe. While the ESO Headquarters are situated in Europe, the observing facilities are located in Chile (South America). The organization's main administrative and technical departments are located at the ESO Headquarters, in Garching near Munich, Germany. They include a number of highly specialized facilities, e.g. the optical, infrared, detector and instrumentation laboratories, all engaged in front-line research and development. The European Coordinating Facility for the Hubble Space Telescope, jointly managed by ESO and the European Space Agency (ESA), is also situated in Garching.

Mr. Grage , President of the ESO Council, expressed the gratitude of the ESO Community for the leadership provided by Prof. Giacconi during these crucial years of development of the organization and its La Silla and Paranal Observatories. In particular, the splendid achievements on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) are a tribute to the ESO staff and to his management and guidance. VLT is currently the largest single project in ground-based astronomy. It has met or exceeded all performance requirements while being built on time and within budget.

When reached for comment, Professor Giacconi pointed out: "I have enjoyed enormously the time I have spent here at ESO and I consider it one of the high points of my career. I feel confident that I am leaving ESO in very good condition. The fine performance of the entire staff has succeeded in bringing the organization to an outstanding position in ground-based astronomy in the world. The prospects for the future are equally brilliant.

I will be happy and proud to assume the Presidency of Associated Universities, Inc. starting next summer. For more than fifty years, AUI has, in collaboration with universities and the national and international scientific community, overseen and managed national facilities which have made possible a wealth of important discoveries in physics, astronomy, and many other areas of science and technology. In the 21st Century, new challenges and opportunities to serve the community await AUI."

Asked about the recent developments in astronomy, Professor Giacconi added that "Advances in this fundamental field of research have come to depend more and more on the execution of complex and large projects. Many of these necessitate international cooperation on the broadest scale. The VLT is an outstanding example and will be the prime ground-based optical observatory of the coming Century. The expertise of AUI and NRAO in providing effective support to the radio astronomy community will prove an invaluable asset in carrying out, under NSF sponsorship, the new and ambitious international cooperative project in submillimeter wave astronomy. I look forward to the opportunity to help AUI in the realization of this undertaking, so important for future advances in the field.

Scientific research in different disciplines is ever more closely interwoven today in methodology and management approaches. The expertise of AUI and of the university community it represents qualifies the organization to manage scientific endeavors in many fields. Guiding AUI in responding to the many challenges and opportunities it faces will be interesting and exciting."

"We are thrilled that Professor Giacconi has decided to take this position," said Professor Paul Martin , Chairman of the Board of AUI. "It is hard to imagine anyone better qualified to lead an organization committed to managing facilities performing frontier science. His vision and foresight have been at the heart of pioneering projects including the Einstein Observatory, the Space Telescope, and the VLT. He is an extraordinary scientist and an outstanding manager whose accomplishments and values have earned him worldwide respect and admiration."

Prior to this assignment at ESO, Prof. Giacconi had served as Director of the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. He is best known in scientific circles for his pioneering contributions to X-ray astronomy. His seminal work in this field, which started at American Science and Engineering, Inc., culminated in the realization, while on the faculty of Harvard University, of the orbital Einstein Observatory in the 1970's. He is currently on leave as Research Professor of Johns Hopkins University and Astronomer Emeritus at STScI. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious scientific awards for his work. Prof. Giacconi is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of books as well as more than 200 scientific publications.


[1] This is a joint Press Release of ESO and AUI (URL: ).

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About the Release

Release No.:eso9850
Legacy ID:PR 17/98
Name:ESO Director General
Type:Unspecified : People : Scientist