Eugene N. Parker (born June 10, 1927) is an American solar astrophysicist who received his B.S. degree in physics from Michigan State University in 1948 and Ph.D. from Caltech in 1951. In the mid-1950s Parker developed the theory on the supersonic solar wind and predicted the Parker spiral shape of the solar magnetic field in the outer solar system. In 1987, Parker proposed that the solar corona might be heated by myriad tiny "nanoflares", miniature brightenings resembling solar flares that would occur all over the surface of the Sun.
Parker was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1967. As of early 2005, he was still engaged in active research at the University of Chicago. His daughter and son-in-law are both faculty members at Michigan State University.
Parker spent four years at the University of Utah and has been at the University of Chicago since 1955, where he has held positions in the physics department, the astronomy and astrophysics department and the Enrico Fermi Institute. He is the leading authority on the solar wind and the effects of magnetic fields in the heliosphere. His work has greatly increased understanding of the solar corona, the solar wind, the magnetic fields of both the Earth and the Sun, and their complex electromagnetic interactions. The theoretical models which he developed in part by looking at comet tails have in recent years been confirmed by spacecraft. His books, especially Cosmical Magnetic Fields, have educated generations of investigators. His most recent book includes the effects of magnetic fields of planets, stars, and galaxies on X-ray emissions.
He also wrote about the dangers of space radiation for future interplanetary missions.
- Arctowski Medal of the National Academy of Sciences (1969)
- Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society (1969)
- George Ellery Hale Prize, American Astronomical Society Solar Physics Division (1978)
- National Medal of Science (1989)
- Bruce Medal (1997)
- Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1992)
- Kyoto Prize (2003)
- James Clerk Maxwell Prize (2003) of the American Physical Society. Citation: "For seminal contributions in plasma astrophysics, including predicting the solar wind, explaining the solar dynamo, formulating the theory of magnetic reconnection, and the instability which predicts the escape of the magnetic fields from the galaxy."
- Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
- Cosmical Magnetic Fields: Their Origin and their Activity, 1979, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-851290-5.
- Spontaneous Current Sheets in Magnetic Fields: With Applications to Stellar X-rays, 1994, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507371-3.
- Conversations on Electric and Magnetic Fields in the Cosmos, 2007, Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-12841-2.
- EUGENE N. PARKER (1927- ), American Geophysical Union
- The Bruce Medalists: Eugene Parker
- "Arctowski Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
- "Gruppe 2: Fysikkfag (herunder astronomi, fysikk og geofysikk)" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
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