Participants

An astrophysicist and science educator, Eric J. Chaisson is director of the Wright Center for Science Education at Tufts University where he is research professor of physics and astronomy and research professor of education. He is also an associate of the Harvard College Observatory and teaches an undergraduate course at Harvard on cosmic evolution. His scientific research involves an interdisciplinary, thermodynamic study of physical and biological phenomena that seeks to understand the origin, evolution, and unification of galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms in the universe. His educational research engages experienced teachers and computer animators in creating better methods, technological aids, and novel curricula to stimulate teachers and instruct students in all aspects of the natural sciences. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, he earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics at Harvard in 1972. He held a National Academy of Sciences post-doctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory then joined the Harvard faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor of astrophysics and a staff member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He was promoted to associate professor in 1979. In the mid-1980s, he joined the Space Telescope Science Institute as a scientist on the senior staff and director of educational programs, posts he held along with an adjunct professorship of physics at Johns Hopkins University and the associate directorship of Maryland Space Grant Consortium until accepting his present position in 1992. Dr. Chaisson has been the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation research fellowship and two Harvard awards, the Bart J. Bok Prize and the Smith-Weld Prize, as well as a NASA certificate of merit for his work on the Hubble Space Telescope and five book awards. He has delivered numerous named lectures, including the Phi Beta Kappa National Lectures in 1995-96 and, most recently, the Collins Lectures at Harvard Medical School. A former member of the Board of Overseers of the Boston Museum of Science, he is currently a member of the board of directors of the Foundation for the Future. In addition to some 150 papers published in scientific journals, he is the author of a dozen books. They include: Cosmic Dawn (1981), a finalist for the National Book Award for distinguished science writing in 1982 and winner of a Phi Beta Kappa Prize and an American Institute of Physics Award; two works on relativity, La Relativita (1983) and Relatively Speaking (1988); (with George Field) a volume outlining the scientific rationale for the United States’ national space policy, The Invisible Universe: Probing the Frontiers of Astrophysics (1985); The Life Era: Cosmic Selection and Consciousness Evolution (1987); (with Steve McMillan) a widely used college astronomy textbook, Astronomy Today (1993 first edition through 2011 seventh edition); The Hubble Wars: Astrophysics Meets Astropolitics in the Two-Billion Struggle over the Hubble Space Telescope (1994), winner of an American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award and cited by the New York Times in its “best book of year” category; Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature (2001); and, most recently, Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos, which was published by Columbia University Press in 2006 and won the Kistler Book Award.