ann18062 — Announcement

Riccardo Giacconi (1993–1999)
12 December 2018
Riccardo Giacconi (1931–2018)

Riccardo Giacconi, a notable member of the IAU community, passed away on Sunday 9 December 2018 at the age of 87.

Riccardo Giacconi was born in Genoa, Italy on 6 October 1931. He obtained both a degree in Physics and a PhD from the University of Milan in 1954. Two years after, Giacconi moved to Indiana University, USA and then on to Princeton University, USA to work at the Princeton Cosmic Ray Laboratory.

Following his time at Princeton, Giacconi was contracted by American Science and Engineering to initiate a space science programme, which he decided to focus on observations at X-ray wavelengths. This decision marked the beginning of the field of X-ray astronomy. In 1962, he and his team discovered Scorpius X-1, the first known X-ray source outside the Solar System, and later the cosmic X-ray background.

Riccardo Giacconi was Director General of ESO from 1993 to 1999. This was a crucial time in the organisation’s history: ESO was then constructing the Very Large Telescope (VLT), on Cerro Paranal, and starting the partnership that would become the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The successes of these years, and in particular the construction of the VLT, led ESO to become a world-leading astronomical organisation.

IAU General Secretary Teresa Lago shares her memory of Riccardo Giacconi: “I worked with Giacconi when he was Director of STScI, and later as Director General of ESO where I was Council member. He was a visionary, determined, and strong-minded person. He was instrumental in shaping the structure of ESO to be ready for the VLT. I consider that world astronomy bears a huge debt of gratitude to Riccardo Giacconi.

Riccardo Giacconi returned to the United States and in 2002 became President of Associated Universities Incorporated (AUI). Also in 2002, Riccardo Giacconi was awarded a share of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002 “for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources.”


Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 320 06 761
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621

About the Announcement



Riccardo Giacconi (1993–1999)