Richard Ellis (astronomer)
Richard Ellis at Caltech
|Born||Richard Salisbury Ellis
25 May 1950
Colwyn Bay, Wales
|Institutions||University College London
University of Cambridge
European Southern Observatory
|Alma mater||University College London
University of Oxford
|Thesis||Stellar abundances and nucleosynthesis (1974)|
|Notable awards||Bakerian Lecture 1998
Gruber Prize in Cosmology (shared) 2007
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society 2011
Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (shared) 2014
Carl Sagan Memorial Prize (shared) 2017
Richard Salisbury Ellis CBE FRS (born 25 May 1950, Colwyn Bay, Wales) is Professor of Astrophysics at the University College London, currently on leave as Senior Scientist at the European Southern Observatory. Until recently he was the Steele Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He was awarded the 2011 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Career and research
After developing a strong research effort at the University of Durham (with two years at the Royal Greenwich Observatory), he was appointed a professor in 1985. In 1993 he moved to the University of Cambridge as the Plumian Professor and became a Professorial Fellow at Magdalene College. He served as Director of the Institute of Astronomy from 1994 to 1999 at which point he moved to Caltech. Shortly after his arrival at Caltech he was appointed as Director of the Palomar Observatory which he later reorganized as the Caltech Optical Observatories taking into account the growing importance of Caltech's role in the Thirty Meter Telescope. After 16 years at Caltech, in September 2015 he returned to Europe via the award of a European Research Council Advanced Research Grant held at University College London (UCL). He negotiated leave from UCL to spend two years at the European Southern Observatory in Munich, Germany where he currently resides.
Ellis works primarily in observational cosmology, considering the origin and evolution of galaxies, the evolution of large scale structure in the universe, and the nature and distribution of dark matter. He worked on the Morphs collaboration studying the formation and morphologies of distant galaxies. Particular interests include applications using gravitational lensing and high-redshift supernovae. He was a member of the Supernova Cosmology Project whose leader, Saul Perlmutter, shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics for the team's surprising discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe. His most recent discoveries relate to searches for the earliest known galaxies, seen when the Universe was only a few percent of its present age.
At Caltech, Professor Ellis was Director of the Palomar Observatory from 2000-2005 and has played a key role in developing the scientific and technical case, as well as building the partnership, for the Thirty Meter Telescope - a collaborative effort involving Caltech, the University of California, Canada, Japan, China and India destined for Mauna Kea, Hawaii. When constructed this will be the largest ground-based optical and near-infrared telescope.