Wendy Freedman

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Wendy Laurel Freedman (born July 17, 1957) is a Canadian-American astronomer, best known for her measurement of the Hubble Constant, and as director of the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, and Las Campanas, Chile. She is a University Professor at the University of Chicago.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

The daughter of a medical doctor and a concert pianist,[2] Freedman's early interest in science was kindled by a formative high-school physics class. This led to her the University of Toronto, where she was first a biophysics student, then an astronomy major, receiving her B.Sc. in 1979.[3] She remained at Toronto for her graduate work, receiving a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics in 1984.[4] Joining the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, as a post-doctoral fellow in 1984, she became a faculty member of the scientific staff three years later as the first woman to join Carnegie's permanent staff. In 2003 she was named to the Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair and Director of Carnegie Observatories.[5] Freedman's early work was principally on the Cepheid distance scale.

Hubble Constant[edit]

Freedman was co-leader of an international team of 30 astronomers to carry out the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project, a program to establish the distance scale of the Universe and measure the current expansion rate, a quantity known as the Hubble constant. This quantity determines the size of the visible universe and is key to determining its age. Over the course of the Key Project, the team measured the distances to 24 galaxies using Cepheid variable stars, and measured the Hubble constant using five independent methods. The project's researchers, led by Freedman, published their final result in 2001.[3] The work provided a value of the Hubble constant accurate to 10%, resolving a long-standing, factor-of-two debate.

Giant Magellan Telescope[edit]

Freedman is the chair of the Board of Directors for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Project, a position she has held since 2003. This project is an international consortium with 9 partners. The GMT is an optical telescope with a primary mirror 80 feet in diameter (24.5 meters). The telescope will be built at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Las Campanas Observatory in the Chilean Andes. The telescope is scheduled to begin early science operations in 2021.


Freedman is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society, and an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Physical Society. She has received the Magellanic Premium Award of the American Philosophical Society.[6] In 1994, Freedman received Marc Aaronson Lectureship and prize "in recognition of a decade of fundamental contributions to the areas of the extra galactic distance scale and the stellar populations of galaxies". She has also been awarded a Centennial Lectureship of the American Physical Society (1999) and a Cosmos Club Award (2000).[5] She is a recipient of the 2009 Gruber Prize for Cosmology.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Freedman is married to longtime collaborator Barry F. Madore. They have two children.[2][8]


  1. ^ anonymous. "Wendy Freedman, world-leading astronomer, joins UChicago faculty". uchicago.edu. 
  2. ^ a b Amy Ellis Nutt, "Will the universe disappear, or does a mysterious force have other plans for it?" The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ (December 5, 2002)
  3. ^ a b National Academy of Sciences, "InterViews: Wendy L. Freedman"
  4. ^ Carnegie Institution, "The Carnegie Observatories: Director"
  5. ^ a b Elizabeth H. Oakes, Encyclopedia of World Scientists, "Wendy Freedman"
  6. ^ Sigma Xi, "American Scientist On-Line: Wendy Freedman"
  7. ^ "Carnegie's Wendy Freedman co-recipient of Gruber Cosmology Prize". American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 3 June 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  8. ^ Corbis Images, Galactic Astronomers"