eso0323 — Organisation Release
President Elect of the International Astronomical Union (IAU)
24 July 2003
The General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), meeting in Sydney (Australia), has appointed the ESO Director General, Dr. Catherine Cesarsky, as President Elect for a three-year period (2003-2006). The IAU is the world's foremost organisation for astronomy, uniting almost 9000 professional scientists on all continents. The IAU General Assembly also elected Prof. Ron Ekers (Australia) as President (2003 - 2006). Dr. Cesarsky will then become President of the IAU in 2006, when the General Assembly next meets in Prague (The Czech Republic). Dr. Cesarsky is the first woman scientist to receive this high distinction.
"The election of Catherine Cesarsky as President-Elect of the IAU is an important recognition for a scientist who has made impressive contributions to various areas of modern astrophysics, from cosmic rays to the interstellar medium and cosmology", commented the outgoing IAU President, Prof. Franco Pacini. "It is also an honour and an important accolade for the European astronomical community in general and ESO in particular."
Dr. Cesarsky, who assumed the function as ESO Director General in 1999, was born in France. She received a degree in Physical Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires and graduated with a PhD in Astronomy in 1971 from Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass., USA). Afterwards she worked at the California Institute of Technology (CALTECH).
In 1974, she became a staff member of the Service d'Astrophysique (SAp), Direction des Sciences de la Matière (DSM), Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA) (France). As Director of DSM (1994 - 1999), she was leading about 3000 scientists, engineers and technicians active within a broad spectrum of basic research programmes in physics, chemistry, astrophysics and earth sciences.
Dr. Cesarsky is known for her successful research activities in several central areas of modern astrophysics. She first worked on the theory of cosmic ray propagation and acceleration, and galactic gamma-ray emission. Later, she led the design and construction of the ISOCAM camera onboard the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) of the European Space Agency (ESA), and the ISOCAM Central Programme which studied the infrared emission from many different galactic and extragalactic sources. This has led to new and exciting results on star formation and galactic evolution, and in the identification of the sources providing the bulk of the energy in the Cosmic Infrared Background.
As ESO Director General, she has been a driving force towards the realisation of the full potential of ESO's unique Very Large Telescope (VLT) and its associated interferometer (VLTI), and also towards the recent European-North American agreement on the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA).
Dr. Cesarsky received the COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) Space Science Award in 1998.
She is married and has two children.