Victoria Kaspi

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Victoria Michelle "Vicky" Kaspi CC FRS FRSC (born June 30, 1967) is an American-Canadian astrophysicist and a professor at McGill University. Her research primarily concerns neutron stars and pulsars.[1]


Kaspi was born in Austin, Texas, but her family moved to Canada when she was seven years old.[1] She completed her undergraduate studies at McGill in 1989, and went to Princeton University for her graduate studies, completing her Ph.D. in 1993 under the supervision of Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Joseph Taylor[1][2] After positions at the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she took a faculty position at McGill in 1999.[1] At McGill, she held one of McGill's first Canada Research Chairs,[3] and in 2006 she was named the Lorne Trottier Professor of Astrophysics.[4] She is also a Fellow in the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.[5]

Kaspi is Jewish.[6] Her husband, David Langleben, is a cardiologist at McGill[3] and the chief of cardiology at Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.[4]


Kaspi's observations of the pulsar associated with supernova remnant G11.2−0.3 in the constellation Sagittarius, using the Chandra X-ray Observatory, showed that the pulsar was at the precise center of the supernova, which had been observed in 386 CE by the Chinese. This pulsar was only the second known pulsar to be associated with a supernova remnant, the first being the one in the Crab Nebula, and her studies greatly strengthened the conjectured relationship between pulsars and supernovae. Additionally, this observation cast into doubt previous methods of dating pulsars by their spin rate; these methods gave the pulsar an age that was 12 times too high to match the supernova.[7]

Kaspi's research with the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer showed that soft gamma repeaters, astronomical sources of irregular gamma ray bursts, and anomalous X-ray pulsars, slowly rotating pulsars with high magnetic fields, could both be explained as magnetars.[5][8]

She also helped discover the pulsar with the fastest known rotation rate, PSR J1748-2446ad,[2] star clusters with a high concentration of pulsars,[2] and (using the Green Bank Telescope) the "cosmic recycling" of a slow-spinning pulsar into a much faster millisecond pulsar.[9][10]

Awards and honours[edit]

Kaspi won the Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy of the American Astronomical Society in 1998, the Herzberg Medal of the Canadian Association of Physicists in 2004,[5] the Steacie Prize in 2006,[11] the Rutherford Memorial Medal of the Royal Society of Canada in 2007, and the Prix Marie-Victorin, the highest scientific award of the province of Québec, in 2009.[1][2] In 2010, she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society.[12] Kaspi received the John C. Polanyi Award in 2010. In 2016, she was awarded the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, the first woman to receive this prize.[13][14] In 2016, Kaspi was invested as a companion of the Order of Canada, Canada's second highest civilian honour.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e Les Prix du Québec - la lauréate Victoria Kaspi. (In French.)
  2. ^ a b c d Kaspi earns Quebec’s top honour, McGill Reporter, January 24, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Victoria Kaspi, by Bronwyn Chester, McGill Reporter, January 25, 2001.
  4. ^ a b Reaching for stars: juggling ambition, angst Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine, Montreal Gazette, February 6, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c 2004 CAP Herzberg Medal will be awarded to Dr. Victoria Kaspi Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine, Canadian Association of Physicists, retrieved 2010-01-24.
  6. ^ Arnold, Janice (6 June 2016). "Jewish McGill Prof First Woman to Win Coveted Gerhard Herzberg Medal". Canadian Jewish News.
  7. ^ Scientists Find Second Pulsar and Link It to Ancient Supernova, John Noble Wilford, New York Times, January 11, 2001.
  8. ^ Evidence Helps Confirm Existence of Powerful Magnetars, Robert Roy Britt,, September 11, 2002.
  9. ^ Scientists witness cosmic recycling first, AdelaideNow, May 22, 2009.
  10. ^ Researchers catch nature in the act of "recycling" a star, Space Daily, May 22, 2009.
  11. ^ McGill professor Vicky Kaspi awarded coveted Steacie Prize, McGill University, December 14, 2006.
  12. ^ "New Fellows 2010: H-K".
  13. ^ "Victoria Kaspi, neutron star researcher at McGill, wins $1M Herzberg medal". CBC News. February 16, 2016.
  14. ^ Mehta, Diana (February 16, 2016). "Une scientifique de McGill est la première femme à recevoir la médaille Herzberg" (in French). La Presse Canadienne.
  15. ^ "Governor General Announces 100 New Appointments to the Order of Canada as Canada Turns 150". The Governor General of Canada His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston. Retrieved 31 December 2016.