Riccardo Giacconi to Receive National Inventors Hall of Fame's Lifetime Achievement Award
Riccardo Giacconi, founding director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)
will receive the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Inventors Hall of
Fame, Inc. on May 3 at the Hall's headquarters in Akron, Ohio. The annual Lifetime
Achievement Award is given to an individual who has fostered innovation throughout his
or her lifetime.
The Hall honors those who have demonstrated an extended commitment to progress in
technical innovation and the protection of that innovation. Each year a new class of
inventors is inducted into the Hall of Fame in recognition of their patented inventions that
make human, social, and economic progress possible.
"It is a great honor to get this award," said Giacconi. "I am particularly pleased that I am to be included
in such a restricted club which has among its members Edison and the Wright brothers.
This is a humbling experience."
Giacconi is considered the "father of X-ray astronomy." He opened a new window on
scientific understanding of the universe, from its evolution to its component black holes,
neutron stars, galaxy clusters, and quasars. He is a co-recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in
Born in Genoa, Italy in 1931, Giacconi received his Ph.D. in physics from the University
of Milan in 1954.
Giacconi led the group of scientists at American Science and Engineering, Inc. in
Cambridge, Mass. that was the first to make extrasolar observations in the 1960s.
In 1970 he conceived of and led the implementation of UHURU, the first orbiting
X-ray observatory which provided the first X-ray map of the heavens and identified
the diffuse X-ray background.
Giacconi joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1973 and became an Associate
Director for the Center for Astrophysics, High Energy Astrophysics Division. He served
as principal investigator during the concept, design, and fabrication of the Einstein
In 1976, he initiated the study and design of a large X-ray telescope, then known as the
Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility. The telescope was renamed the Chandra X-Ray
Observatory in 1998.
He was appointed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc.
(AURA), as the first director of STScI in 1981. Under his leadership, STScI developed
the expertise and capabilities to direct the science mission for NASA's orbiting Hubble
From 1981 to 1997, Giacconi was a professor in physics and astronomy at the Johns
Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore. Upon leaving STScI in 1993, he began a seven-
year appointment as Director General of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in
Garching, Germany. In 1999 he was appointed president of Associated Universities, Inc.
(AUI), the consortium that co-administers the National Radio Astronomy Observatory
with the National Science Foundation. Giacconi retired from AUI and was named
University Professor at JHU in 2004.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and
the European Space Agency (ESA) and is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight
Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)
conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington, DC.
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.