Royal Astronomical Society Awards Donald E. Osterbrock Gold Medal

April 17, 1997

Author: Robert Irion

Tim Stephens
UCSC Public Information Office

SANTA CRUZ, CA: Great Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society has awarded the 1997 Gold Medal, its highest honor, to Donald Osterbrock, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and astronomer emeritus at UC Observatories/Lick Observatory. The award recognizes Osterbrock’s lifetime achievement in the field of astronomy.

The society bestows its Gold Medal for outstanding research in astronomy and for leadership within the astronomical community. Given yearly, it was first awarded in 1824. Past recipients include John Herschel, Arthur Eddington, Albert Einstein, Fred Hoyle, and Stephen Hawking. Five former Lick Observatory astronomers received the medal, the last in 1938.

Osterbrock’s research has made influential contributions to the body of knowledge on interstellar matter, gaseous nebulae, and the nuclei of active galaxies. His books on the subjects are standards in the field. Osterbrock also has published several books on the history of American astronomy. His most recent is Yerkes Observatory, 1892-1950: The Birth, Near Death, and Resurrection of a Scientific Research Institution (University of Chicago Press, 1997).

Osterbrock came to UCSC in 1973 and served as director of Lick Observatory from then to 1981. Before joining UCSC’s faculty, he was affiliated with Princeton University, Caltech, and the University of Wisconsin.

Osterbrock is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and numerous professional organizations. He also is a foreign associate of the Royal Astronomical Society. He holds honorary doctorates from Ohio State University and the University of Chicago. The American Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific have both lauded Osterbrock’s career with their lifetime achievement awards, two of astronomy’s highest honors.

The Royal Astronomical Society’s aims are “the encouragement and promotion of astronomy and geophysics.” It was founded in 1820. Editor’s Notes:

Hubble Space Telescope images may be viewed at

UCO Press Release Archives

Have a press release you'd like to see on these pages? Email it to