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Riccardo Giacconi Papers

Creator::
Giacconi, Riccardo  Search this
Extent:
82.13 cu. ft. (80 record storage boxes) (2 document boxes) (1 16x20 box) (1 blueprint storage box)
Type:
Archival materials
Collection descriptions
Color photographs
Black-and-white photographs
Laboratory notebooks
Scientific illustrations
Clippings
Manuscripts
Color transparencies
Black-and-white transparencies
Place:
Atacama Desert (Chile)
Scorpius X-1 (Star)
Date:
1955-2002
Descriptive Entry:
These records document Riccardo Giacconi's professional career, and consist of papers illustrating his scientific work and administrative records relating to the institutions at which he worked.

There is extensive documentation of Giacconi's professional activities, including meetings attended, papers presented (and published), his services as officer or board member of professional societies; grants, proposals, and contracts, mainly with NASA; correspondence with colleagues; slides and photographs of many facilities with which Giacconi was associated (some unlabeled); news clippings and press releases; appointment books and journals; and files documenting his association with Montedison S.p.A.

Series 1 provides biographical information about Giacconi. Series 2 through 12 offer a roughly chronological overview of the institutions and major scientific projects with which Giacconi has been associated during his professional career. The institutions are American Science and Engineering (Series 2), Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Series 4), Harvard University (Series 5), Space Telescope Science Institute (Series 11) and European Southern Observatory (Series 12).

Although all the institutional series mentioned contain both scientific and administrative records, there is a noticeable decline in scientific content when Giacconi moves from the Center for Astrophysics to the Space Telescope Science Institute. Interspersed amongst institutional series are series covering major scientific projects that spanned more than one institution, including the High Energy Astronomy Observatory (HEAO) series of satellites (Series 6-9), particularly HEAO-B also known as Einstein, Uhuru (Series 3), and the Advanced X-Ray Astronomical Facility (AXAF), later known as the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (Series 10).

Series 13 through 17 illustrate Giacconi's tenure on various committees having to do, primarily, with space science. Series 18 and 19 detail his involvement with professional scientific societies. Series 20 documents Giacconi's involvement in professional scientific meetings. Series 21 illustrates his involvement with Italian company Montedison and its efforts to found a scientific research institute. Series 22 contains Giacconi's general correspondence, much of it from his time at STSI. Series 23 consists of publications that did not match with any specific institute or project. Many of these publications are directed toward a lay audience. Series 24 contains generic materials relating to x-ray astronomy including newspaper clippings and articles. Series 25 consists of Giacconi's appointment books. Series 26 contains materials that relate to Giacconi's personal life, including receipts, pamphlets, announcements, and videotapes. Series 27 consists of awards that Giacconi received for his scientific accomplishments. The Nobel Prize is not included in this collection. The total volume of the collection is approximately 95 cubic feet.
Historical Note:
Riccardo Giacconi (1931-2018), an astrophysicist, was born in Genoa, Italy. He attended the University of Milan, receiving the PhD in 1954. From 1954 to 1956, he served as an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University, then became Research Associate (Fulbright Fellow) at Indiana University. From 1958 to 1959, he was a Research Associate in the Cosmic Ray Laboratory at Princeton University. In 1959 he took the post of Senior Scientist, vice president in charge of the Space Research and Systems Division, at American Science and Engineering (ASE), a private research corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He stayed at ASE, serving as Executive Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors, until 1973, when he left to become Associate Director of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA) and Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University. He remained at the CFA until 1981 when he was appointed first Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STSI) and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University. In 1991 he was also appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Milan.

Much of Giacconi's pioneering work in x-ray astronomy took place during his tenure at ASE, and he was a major force in the development of the company. In 1962 Giacconi's group succeeded in detecting the first extrasolar x-ray source. In 1963 the same group obtained the first solar x-ray picture by use of an x-ray telescope, which had been conceived, advocated, designed, and fabricated by them. In that same year Giacconi proposed an x-ray astronomy satellite, Explorer. The proposal led to a program of construction in 1966-1970, followed by a successful launch in 1970. The satellite became known as Uhuru, and represented a major qualitative step in x-ray astronomy's observational capability. Following this early work on solar x-ray studies, a major program, initiated in 1968, culminated in the flight of the SO-54 x-ray telescope on the Apollo Telescope Mount's Skylab mission. In 1970 a program for construction of a 1.2 meter x-ray telescope for study of extrasolar sources was initiated. The program was modified in 1973, and finally led to the Einstein Observatory mission, successfully launched in 1978. Giacconi had responsibility for the scientific direction and administrative management of all these programs.

Giacconi went to the CFA as Director of the High Energy Astrophysics Division in 1973. He oversaw the conception, fabrication, and design of the Einstein Observatory, preparation of the software and hardware for data reduction for Einstein, and the establishment and implementation of the Guest Observer Program.

In 1981 Giacconi became Director of the new Space Telescope Science Institute, managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).When fully operational, the STSI was to be the center of operations and research for the Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990. From 1987 to 1988, Giacconi served as a consultant to Montedison S.p.A., an Italian chemical conglomerate, with the title of Chairman of the Board, Instituto Donegani, the research arm of the parent corporation. This activity, which was an attempt to elevate Instituto Donegani to a world class center for chemistry, was soon abandoned.

In 1993, Giacconi left STSI to head the European Southern Observatory (ESO). ESO is an intergovernmental European organization for astronomical research. ESO coordinates the activities of the La Silla and Paranal observatories in the Atacama Desert in Chile. One of the major scientific achievements of ESO under Giacconi's leadership was the installation of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory.

Giacconi left ESO in 1999 and is currently the President of Associated Universities, Inc., which manages the National Radio Astronomy Observatory under a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Giacconi is the author of over 300 articles on x-ray astronomy. He has been awarded numerous prizes for his scientific research, including the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of cosmic x-ray sources.
Topic:
X-ray telescopes  Search this
Nobel Prizes  Search this
S-054 Telescope  Search this
Astronomy  Search this
Astrophysics  Search this
Space photography  Search this
Genre/Form:
Color photographs
Black-and-white photographs
Laboratory notebooks
Scientific illustrations
Clippings
Manuscripts
Color transparencies
Black-and-white transparencies
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7416, Riccardo Giacconi Papers
Identifier:
Record Unit 7416
See more items in:
Riccardo Giacconi Papers
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-faru7416

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