Yervant Terzian

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Yervant Terzian
Born(1939-02-09)February 9, 1939
DiedNovember 25, 2019(2019-11-25) (aged 80)
EducationAmerican University in Cairo
Indiana University Bloomington
Scientific career
InstitutionsArecibo Observatory
Cornell University

Yervant Terzian (February 9, 1939 – November 25, 2019) was an American astronomer. He was the Tisch Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Cornell University's Department of Astronomy, which he chaired between 1979 and 1999.[1][2]


Yervant Terzian was born on February 9, 1939, in Alexandria, Egypt to a Greek mother, Maria (née Kyriakaki), daughter of a fisherman, and an Armenian father, Bedros Terzian, a merchant who survived the Armenian genocide.[3][4][1] He studied at the Kalousdian Armenian School in Cairo and received his B.Sc. in physics and mathematics from the American University in Cairo in 1960.[1][4] He then emigrated to the United States and enrolled at Indiana University Bloomington. He received his master's degree in 1963 and completed his Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1965.[3][1]

English was the fifth language Terzian learned.[1]


Between 1965 and 1967 Terzian worked as a research associate at the newly built Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, managed by Cornell University.[3] He joined the Cornell University faculty in 1967 as assistant professor of astronomy. He became associate professor in 1972 and professor in 1977.[1]

He was Chair of the Astronomy Department for two decades, between 1979 and 1999.[2] Jonathan I. Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences at Cornell, stated that Terzian's "legacy as a department chair and colleague is profound and lasting."[1] Frank H. T. Rhodes, President of Cornell in 1977–1995, stated that "He presided over a remarkable department, full of wonderful colleagues — Carl Sagan, Tommy Gold, Ed Salpeter … and somehow the wisdom and sheer sense of partnership that Yervant brought to that distinguished group was something that not only kept the department intact, but allowed it to grow."[5]

Between 1990 and 1999 he was James A. Weeks Professor of Physical Sciences at Cornell. He was named David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences in 1999[4] and later Tisch Distinguished Professor. After he retired, he was named the Tisch Distinguished Professor Emeritus.[1][2]

In different years, Terzian was visiting professor at University of Montreal (1973–74), University of Thessaloniki (1974), and University of California, San Diego (1999–2000).[4]

Between 1996 and 2015 Terzian was the director of the NASA New York Space Grant Consortium at Cornell, which aimed to enhance science education. It came to include 18 universities and four museums.[1][2]

Terzian was involved in planning to construct the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) giant radio telescope.[2][6][7][8][9] In 2002 he was elected chairman of the US SKA Consortium.[2][10]


Terzian's research focused on the physics of the interstellar medium, galaxies, and radio astronomy.[2] He studied the physics of the stellar evolution, planetary nebulae, hydrogen gas between galaxies and the presence of unseen matter in intergalactic space.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Terzian's first wife, Araxy (née Hovsepian, 1940–2017), was also an Egypt-born Armenian.[11] They had a daughter, Tamar, and a son, Sevan.[3] In 1977 Araxy recorded a greeting in Western Armenian for the Voyager Golden Record.[12] His second wife was Patricia E. Fernandez de Castro Martinez,[1][5] an editor at the Department of Astronomy at Cornell[13] and president of the Latino Civic Association of Tompkins County.[14][15]

Terzian died at his home in Ithaca, New York, on November 25, 2019, after a long illness.[1][3][16] He was buried at Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Ithaca.[1]


Terzian authored and co-authored over 235 publications.[5] He was the editor of seven books, most prominently Carl Sagan’s Universe (Cambridge University Press, 1997).[1]

Between 1989 and 1999 he served as associate editor and scientific editor of The Astrophysical Journal.[1][2]


Terzian was a member of a number of organizations, including the International Astronomical Union (1967),[17] the International Union of Radio Science, and the American Astronomical Society.[2] He was a Foreign Member of the Armenian Academy of Sciences (1990),[17][2] a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2001).[2] He was a founding member (2001) and Co-President (2002) of the Armenian Astronomical Society.[17][4] He was also a member of the Hellenic Astronomical Society.[2][18]


Terzian was also a philanthropist. He founded Armenian National Science and Education Fund (ANSEF [19]), a project that is part of the Fund for Armenian Relief. He was its chairman since 2001.[2][4] It supported thousands of Armenian scientists through research assistance.[20]


In 2009 a documentary was made by Friends of Astronomy at Cornell on Terzian's 70th anniversary.[5][21] In September 2017 a conference room was named after Terzian in Cornell's Spaces Sciences Building "in recognition of his many years of leadership, scholarship and citizenship to Cornell."[22]


Honorary degrees[edit]

Terzian received honorary doctorates from a number of universities: Indiana University (1989), Yerevan State University (1994), University of Thessaloniki (1997), Union College (1999).[4][2][17]

In 2004, his alma mater, the American University in Cairo, awarded him the Distinguished Alumni Award.[4][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Friedlander, Blaine (December 4, 2019). "Yervant Terzian, who explored matter between stars, dies at 80". Cornell Chronicle. Cornell University. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Yervant Terzian". Cornell University. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Dr. Yervant Terzian, PhD". Bangs Funeral Home, Inc. December 6, 2019. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019.. Also published in "Dr. Yervant Terzian, PhD". Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Yervant TERZIAN (b. 1939)". Armenian Astronomical Society. Archived from the original on 26 October 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Juneja, Shruti (6 December 2019). "Revered Astronomy Prof., Former Department Chair, Dies at 80 After Prominent Career". The Cornell Daily Sun. Archived from the original on 10 December 2019.
  6. ^ Matson, John (May 9, 2011). "Array of Hope: Australia and South Africa Vie for Massive Radio Telescope Project". Scientific American. Archived from the original on 9 December 2019. "The SKA science board said that these two sites were acceptable" from a science standpoint, says Cornell University astronomer Yervant Terzian, a member of the SKA siting group.
  7. ^ "Technology Development for the Square Kilometer Array". National Science Foundation. June 21, 2002. Archived from the original on 9 December 2019. Investigator(s): Yervant Terzian (Co-Principal Investigator)
  8. ^ "A Test for String Theory, if Only". Science. 319 (5864): 705. 8 February 2008. doi:10.1126/science.319.5864.705d. S2CID 220088098. Yervant Terzian, a radio astronomer at Cornell University. Terzian is a member of a team proposing to build a 1-square-kilometer array...
  9. ^ Irion, Robert (3 May 2002). "Tuning In the Radio Sky". Science. 296 (5569): 830–3. doi:10.1126/science.296.5569.830. PMID 11988550. S2CID 118848533. ...Cornell astronomer Yervant Terzian, head of the SKA site-selection committee.
  10. ^ "Dark Energy Experiments with the Square Kilometer Array" (PDF). National Radio Astronomy Observatory. June 15, 2005: 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-12-09. The US SKA Consortium: Chair: Professor Yervant Terzian (Cornell University) {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ "Araxy Bablanian". Forest Meadows Funeral Home. Archived from the original on 9 December 2019.
  12. ^ Sagan, Carl; Drake, F. D.; Lomberg, Jon; Druyan, Ann (1978). "A Voyager's Greetings". Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record. Random House.
  13. ^ "Patricia E. Fernandez de Castro Martinez". Department of Astronomy. Cornell University. Archived from the original on 10 December 2019.
  14. ^ Covert, Alyvia (September 9, 2017). "Students, residents gather at Cornell University for rally, panel on DACA reversal". The Ilthaca Voice. Archived from the original on 10 December 2019.
  15. ^ Viera, Edwin J. (September 8, 2019). "Latino Civic Association of Tompkins County prepares for 2020 census". Ithaca Times. Archived from the original on 10 December 2019.
  16. ^ "In Memoriam: Yervant Terzian, 1939 - 2019". Arecibo Observatory. 6 December 2019. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019.
  17. ^ a b c d e "Yervant Terzian". National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. 4 December 2019. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019.
  18. ^ "Members: Terzian Yervant". Hel.A.S. Directory. Archived from the original on 10 December 2019.
  19. ^ "The Armenian National Science and Education Fund". ANSEF. 9 July 2020.
  20. ^ "[FAR New York]: In Memoriam: FAR Says Goodbye to Beloved Mentor and Partner Dr. Yervant Terzian". Fund for Armenian Relief. 2 December 2019.
  21. ^ Handler, Philip; Handler, Maddy (October 2009). "Celebrating Yervant: Cornell Professor Terzian on his 70th birthday". Cornell University Library. Archived from the original on 10 December 2019.; on YouTube
  22. ^ Glaser, Linda B. (September 19, 2017). "Astronomer Yervant Terzian honored with room dedication". Cornell University. Archived from the original on 9 December 2019.
  23. ^ "Anania Shirakatsi Award Ceremony in New York". Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations. 8 April 2013. Archived from the original on 9 December 2019.
  24. ^ Glaser, Linda B. (26 June 2018). "NASA awards its highest honor to Yervant Terzian". Cornell Chronicle. Cornell University. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019.
  25. ^ "NASA, Marshall Center Recognize Team Members at Annual Honor Awards". August 23, 2018. Archived from the original on 22 September 2021. NASA Distinguished Public Service Medals, the highest form of recognition that is awarded to any non-government individual, were presented to ... Yervant Terzian of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
  26. ^ "Agency Honor Awards" (PDF). August 2, 2018. p. 27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 August 2021.