Debra Elmegreen

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Debra Meloy Elmegreen
Born (1952-11-23) November 23, 1952 (age 66)
NationalityUnited States
CitizenshipUnited States
EducationPrinceton University (AB)
Harvard University (MA, PhD)
Spouse(s)Bruce Elmegreen
Scientific career
InstitutionsKitt Peak Observatory
Arecibo Observatory
Hale Observatory
Vassar College (1985-current)

Debra Meloy Elmegreen (born November 23, 1952[1] in South Bend, Indiana) is an American astronomer. She was the first woman to graduate from Princeton University with a degree in astrophysics, and she was the first female post-doctoral researcher at the Carnegie Observatories.

Since 1985, she has been a professor of astronomy at Vassar College. She wrote an astronomy textbook published by Prentice Hall in 1997. She served as president of the American Astronomical Society from 2010-2012, and on August 30, 2018 was named President-elect of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) at the group’s 30th triennial General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Elmegreen was born in South Bend, Indiana in 1952. She became interested in astronomy at a young age.[3] She received her bachelor's degree in astrophysics from the Princeton University in 1975,[4] where she was the first woman to graduate with an astrophysics major.[5] She earned both her Masters and Ph.D from Harvard University in astronomy. In 1976 she married Bruce Elmegreen, an astronomer.[3][6]


Elmegreen did post-doctoral research at the Hale Observatory (now Mount Wilson Observatory) beginning in 1979, where she was the first female post-doctoral researcher at any of the Carnegie Observatories.[5] Starting in 1985, she began teaching astronomy at Vassar College. In 1990, she became an associate professor and then department chair in 1993.[7][3][8][6]

Elmegreen is particularly interested in Star formation and star forming galaxies.[9] In 1997, Elmegreen published an astronomy textbook for under graduates titled, Galaxies and Galactic Structure, through Prentice Hall. Elmegreen has also published over 200 academic papers. She was president of the American Astronomical Society from 2010-2012,[9][10] and was appointed as a board member of the 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.[11]

In 2013, she and her husband authored a paper, "The Onset of Spiral Structure in the Universe", published in the Astrophysical Journal.[12]


She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.[13]


  • Galaxies and Galactic Structure, Prentice Hall, 1997, ISBN 0137792328[3]

Elmegreen has also published over 200 academic papers including:

  • Elmegreen, D. M., S4 G team, 2011, “Grand Design and Flocculent Spirals in the Spitzer Survey of Stellar Structure in Galaxies,” Astrophysical Journal, 737, 32
  • Elmegreen, D.M., et al. 2009, “Clumpy Galaxies in GEMS and GOODS: Massive Analogs of Local Dwarf Irregulars,” Astrophysical Journal, 701, 306
  • Elmegreen, D., et al. 2007, “Resolved Galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field: Star Formation in Disks at High Redshift,” Astrophysical Journal, 658, 763


  1. ^ "Library of Congress LCCN Permalink n97106480".
  2. ^ "Elmegreen to Lead Worldwide Astronomy Group"[1]
  3. ^ a b c d "Debra Meloy Elmegreen". Hubble Heritage Project. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  4. ^ Deivasigamani, Shruthi (May 29, 2015). "The American siege on science". The Daily Princetonian. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Maran, Stephen P. (May 19, 2011). "Portman's Role In 'Thor' Highlights Rise Of Women In Astronomy". LiveScience. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  6. ^ a b O'Neill, Ian (December 30, 2013). "When Did Galaxies Get Their Spirals?". Discover News. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  7. ^ Bailey, Martha (1998). American Women in Science 1950 to Present A Biographical Dictionary. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-87436-921-2.
  8. ^ a b "Debra Meloy Elmegreen". Vassar College. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  9. ^ "Past Officers and Councilors". American Astronomical Society. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  10. ^ "Astro2010: The Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey". National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  11. ^ Elmegreen, Debra Meloy; Elmegreen, Bruce G. (January 20, 2014). "The Onset of Spiral Structure in the Universe". The Astrophysical Journal. 781 (11): 11. arXiv:1312.2215. Bibcode:2014ApJ...781...11E. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/781/1/11.
  12. ^ "New 2019 Academy Members Announced". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. April 17, 2019.