Margaret G. Kivelson

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Margaret G. Kivelson
Margaret Galland Kivelson.png
Kivelson in 2007
Born Margaret Galland Kivelson
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Plasma physics
Institutions UCLA
Alma mater Radcliffe College (A.B.),
Radcliffe College (A.M.),
Radcliffe College (Ph.D.)
Thesis Bremsstrahlung of High Energy Electrons (1957)
Doctoral advisor Julian Schwinger[1]
Notable awards Alfven Medal of the European Geophysical Union (2005)
Fleming Medal of the American Geophysical Union (2005)

Margaret G. Kivelson is an American space physicist, planetary scientist, and Distinguished Professor Emerita of Space Physics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her primary research interests include the magnetospheres of Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn. Recent research has also focused on Jupiter’s Galilean moons. She was the Principal Investigator for the Magnetometer on the Galileo Orbiter that acquired data in Jupiter’s magnetosphere for eight years and a Co-Investigator on the FGM (magnetometer) of the earth-orbiting NASA-ESA Cluster mission. She is actively involved as a Co-Investigator on NASA’s Themis mission, as a member of the Cassini magnetometer team, and as a participant in the magnetometer team for the European JUICE mission to Jupiter. Kivelson has published over 350 research papers and is co-editor of a widely used textbook on space physics (Introduction to Space Physics).[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Margaret G. Kivelson was born in New York City. Her father was a medical doctor and her mother had an undergraduate degree in physics from an institute where both Planck and Einstein were on the faculty (when Kivelson was older her mother later returned to school for a master's degree in education). Kivelson started her undergraduate education at Radcliffe College in 1946 and obtained a Ph.D. in quantum electrodynamics from Radcliffe College in 1957.[1]


Kivelson completed her PhD thesis "Bremsstrahlung of High Energy Electrons' in 1957. Her thesis provided an expression for the cross section of forward scattering to all orders in the Coulomb interaction.[1]

From 1955 to 1971 Kivelson worked as a consultant in physics at the RAND Corporation based in Santa Monica, California. Here she researched the interactions of plasmas and electron gases using mathematical techniques similar to those in quantum electrodynamics. Working with Don DuBois, they derived a correction to Landau's relation for the damping excitations of unmagnetized plasma.[3] For 1965-1966, Kivelson took a leave from RAND to join her husband's sabbatical leave in Boston. Through a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Kivelson was able to conduct scientific research in a university setting at Harvard and MIT.[1]

Motivated by her experiences in academia through the Radcliffe Institute, Kivelson joined UCLA in 1967 as an assistant research geophysicist where she transitioned to space plasma physics. She became a full professor in 1980 and she chaired the Department of Earth and Space Sciences from 1984 to 1987. In 2009 she became a Distinguished Professor of Space Physics, Emerita and in 2010 she also took a position as a research professor at the University of Michigan.[2]

Scientific contributions[edit]

Some of Kivelson's accomplishments include discovering an internal magnetic field at Ganymede,[4] providing compelling evidence for a sub-surface ocean at Europa,[5] and elucidating some of the processes explaining the behavior of ultralow frequency waves in the terrestrial magnetosphere.[6]

Kivelson has authored or co-authored over 350 publications that have accumulated over 12,000 citations.[7]

Establishing a scientific career as a woman[edit]

Some of her recollections about establishing a career as a woman scientist have been documented in an interview by the American Astronomical Society and piece in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. When Kivelson started to pursue her undergraduate degree in physics her family joked she was really pursuing a "Mrs" degree. Before World War II, courses at Radcliffe were segregated by gender from courses at Harvard. However, when Kivelson attended Radcliffe/Harvard in the first class after the war, classes did not return to being segregated. Kivelson was often the only woman in her courses.[1]

Over the course of Julian Schwinger's career he had more than 70 graduate students and of these Kivelson was his only female student. In 1954, she gave birth to her first child and afterwards she often faced criticism for continuing to work despite being a mother. In 1955 her husband received an appointment at UCLA and she followed him to Los Angeles. She started working part-time at the RAND Corporation while completing her thesis. Her second child was born in 1957 a few months after receiving her PhD.[1][8]

In 1973, Kivelson won a Guggenheim Fellowship to work at the Imperial College in London. According to her, "that fellowship gave me for the first time the sense that I was being taken seriously as a scientist. More than money, it gave me status and increased my self-confidence considerably."[1]

Honors and awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kivelson, M. G. (2008). "The Rest of the Solar System". Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 36: 1–32. Bibcode:2008AREPS..36....1K. doi:10.1146/ 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics". Retrieved 2013-09-04. 
  3. ^ Dubois, DF; Kivelson, MG; Gilinsky, V (1963). "Propagation of electromagnetic waves in plasma". Physical Review 129 (6). doi:10.1103/physrev.129.2376. 
  4. ^ Kivelson, M. G.; Khurana, K. K.; Russell, C. T.; Walker, R. J.; Warnecke, J.; Coroniti, F. V.; Polanskey, C.; Southwood, D. J.; Schubert, G. (1996). "Discovery of Ganymede's magnetic field by the Galileo spacecraft". Nature 384 (6609): 537–541. Bibcode:1996Natur.384..537K. doi:10.1038/384537a0. ISSN 0028-0836. 
  5. ^ Kivelson, M. G.; et al. (2000). "Galileo Magnetometer Measurements: A Stronger Case for a Subsurface Ocean at Europa". Science 289 (5483): 1340–1343. Bibcode:2000Sci...289.1340K. doi:10.1126/science.289.5483.1340. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 10958778. 
  6. ^ Kivelson, Margaret G.; Southwood, David J. (1986). "Coupling of global magnetospheric MHD eigenmodes to field line resonances". Journal of Geophysical Research 91 (A4): 4345. Bibcode:1986JGR....91.4345K. doi:10.1029/JA091iA04p04345. ISSN 0148-0227. 
  7. ^ "Margaret G. Kivelson". Thomson Reuters Citation Index. Retrieved 2013-09-04. 
  8. ^ "AAS Committee on the Status of Women: Interview with Margaret Kivelson". 
  9. ^ "1989 AAAS Fellow". Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  10. ^ "1992 AGU Fellow". Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  11. ^ "2005 John Adam Fleming Medal Winner". Retrieved 2013-09-04. 

External links[edit]