Margaret Geller

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Margaret J. Geller
(photo: 1981)
Born Margaret Joan Geller
(1947-12-08) December 8, 1947 (age 69)[1]
Ithaca, New York[1]
Nationality American
Fields Astrophysics: Galaxies and Cosmology
Institutions Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Alma mater UC Berkeley (B.A., 1970)
Princeton University (Ph.D., 1975)
Doctoral advisor P. J. E. Peebles
Notable awards Newcomb Cleveland Prize (1989)
MacArthur Fellowship (1990)
Klopsteg Memorial Award (1996)
Magellanic Premium (2008)
James Craig Watson Medal (2010)
Russell Lectureship (2010)
Lilienfeld Prize (2013)
Karl Schwarzschild Medal (2014)

Margaret J. Geller (born December 8, 1947) is an American astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Her work has included pioneering maps of the nearby universe, studies of the relationship between galaxies and their environment, and the development and application of methods for measuring the distribution of matter in the universe.


Geller received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics at the University of California, Berkeley (1970) and a Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton (1975). Although Geller planned to study solid state physics, she shifted her focus to the large-scale structure of the universe at the suggestion of an advisor in her graduate program[2]. After research fellowships at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, England, she became an assistant professor of Astronomy at Harvard University (1980-1983). She then joined the permanent scientific staff of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, a partner in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Geller is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. In 1990, she was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[3] Two years later, she was elected to the Physics section of the US National Academy of Sciences.[4] From 2000 to 2003, she served on the Council of the National Academy of Sciences. She has received seven honorary degrees (D. S. H. C. or L. H. C.).


Geller is known for observational and theoretical work in cosmology and extragalactic astronomy. In the 1980s, she made pioneering maps of the large-scale structure of the universe,[5] which led to the discovery of the Great Wall.[6] With the 6.5-m MMT, she is conducting a more distant survey of the universe called HectoMAP.[7] Geller has developed innovative techniques for investigating the internal structure and total mass of clusters of galaxies and the relationship of clusters to the large-scale structure.

Geller is also a co-discoverer of hypervelocity stars.[8]

Films and Public Lectures[edit]

Geller has made several films for public education. Her 8-minute video Where the Galaxies Are (1989) was the first graphic voyage through the observed universe and was awarded a CINE Gold Eagle. A later 40-minute film, So Many Galaxies...So Little Time, contains more sophisticated prize-winning (IEEE/Siggraph) graphics and was on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

Geller has lectured extensively to public audiences around the world. She has lectured twice in the main amphitheater at the Chautauqua Institution.[9]

She is included in NPR's list of The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever.[10]

Her story about her entry into astrophysics and meeting the renowned astrophysicist John Archibald Wheeler, entitled "Mapping the Universe" was published by The Story Collider podcast on May 21, 2014.[11]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Margaret Geller". Array of Contemporary American Physicists. 2006. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "History of Women in Astronomy: Margaret Geller". Retrieved 2017-07-19. 
  3. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter G" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "NAS Online Member Directory". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "A Slice of the Universe". Astrophysics Data Service. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  6. ^ M. J. Geller & J. P. Huchra, Science 246, 897 (1989).
  7. ^ M. J. Geller, A. Diaferio, & M. J. Kurtz, Astron. J, 142, 133 (2011).
  8. ^ W. R. Brown, M. J. Geller, S. J. Kenyon, and M. J. Kurtz, Astrophys. J. Letters 622, L33 (2005).
  9. ^ "Expedition Universe & Click! The Universe". Chautauqua Institution. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  10. ^ "The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever". Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Margaret Geller: Mapping the Universe". Retrieved 10 Nov 2014. 
  12. ^ "Margaret J. Geller". American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "Meet the 1990 MacArthur Fellows". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  14. ^ "Helen Sawyer Hogg Lecture". Canadian Astronomical Society. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  15. ^ "Klopsteg Memorial Award". American Association of Physics Teachers. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  16. ^ "1997 Library Lion". New York Public Library. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  17. ^ "la Medaille de l'ADION". Nice Observatory. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  18. ^ "The Magellanic Premium of the American Philosophical Society". Archived from the original on 2009-04-17. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  19. ^ "Honorary Degree from Colby College". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  20. ^ "Grants, Prizes and Awards". American Astronomical Society. Archived from the original on 22 December 2010. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  21. ^ "James Craig Watson Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 29 June 2010. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  22. ^ "Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize". Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  23. ^ "Karl Schwarzschild Medal". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  24. ^ "Honorary Degree from Dartmouth College". Retrieved 2014-06-11. 
  25. ^ "Margaret Geller, Laura Honoris Causa". Retrieved 2017-04-30. 
  26. ^ "Margaret Geller, Queen of Galaxies". Retrieved 2017-04-30. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]