National Medal of Science
For his profound and lasting contributions to planetary sciences and astrophysics, providing fundamental theoretical insights for understanding the rotation of planets, the dynamics of planetary rings, pulsars, astrophysical masers, the spiral arms of galaxies, and the oscillations of the Sun.
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BirthJuly 14, 1939
Country of BirthUSA
Key ContributionsPosited That Planetary Nebulae Evolve From Red Giant Stars
Awarded byBill Clinton
Areas of ImpactEnergy & Environment
AffiliationsCalifornia Institute of Technology
Peter Goldreich has made profound and lasting contributions to planetary science and astrophysics. His research has focused on celestial mechanics, planetary rings, helioseismology and neutron stars. He is currently the Lee DuBridge Professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Physics at California Institute of Technology.
Goldreich’s work has involved fundamental research into a range of phenomena, such as the dynamics of planetary rings, pulsars, masers, the spiral arms of galaxies, the rotation of planets as well as their orbital resonances and the oscillations of the sun. He has authored papers on topics ranging from why Saturn's rings have sharp edges, to how stars send out coherent microwaves, to how the moon Io affects the radio bursts of Jupiter.
Along with collaborators, Goldreich was the first to describe the process of polar wander in 1969, and conclude that planetary nebulae evolved from red giant stars-- a view that is now widely accepted. He and colleague Scott Tremaine predicted Saturn’s F ring and Uranus’ rings were maintained by shepherd moons, both predictions were later confirmed.
By Jen Santisi