Michael S. Turner to address ‘Quarks and the Cosmos’ in April 17 Ryerson Lecture

Pioneering University of Chicago cosmologist Michael S. Turner will present the annual Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture, titled “Quarks and the Cosmos,” at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 17. The free public lecture will take place in the Max Palevsky Cinema of Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St.

Turner is the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, director of UChicago’s Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, and president of the American Physical Society. He helped to pioneer the interdisciplinary field of particle astrophysics and cosmology. This field explores the deep connections between the subatomic world and the universe on the largest scales, shedding light on both the basic laws that govern quarks and other particles, and on the origin and evolution of the universe. With Chicago colleague Edward “Rocky” Kolb, he founded the astrophysics program at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in 1983.

An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, Turner also has received the Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, the Klopsted Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the Heineman Prize (with Kolb) of the American Astronomical Society and the American Institute of Physics.

Turner joined the UChicago faculty in 1980 and served as chair of Astronomy & Astrophysics from 1997 to 2003. He received a Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the University in 1983.

Turner will focus his remarks on what he calls “the Chicago School of Cosmology,” from Edwin Hubble and George Ellery Hale to the present.

An alumnus of UChicago, Hubble, SB 1910, PhD 1917, discovered that the universe consists of billions of galaxies and that it has been expanding since it began in a big bang. Hale was the first chairman of the University’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. He also founded Yerkes Observatory, which under his leadership developed the big reflecting telescopes that are the workhorses of optical astronomy today, making discoveries from the expanding universe to planets orbiting other stars.

Turning to more recent times, Turner will discuss efforts starting in the 1980s at Chicago to establish the new field of particle astrophysics and cosmology. At that time, the Chicago School, consisting primarily of the late David Schramm, Kolb, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Turner, was alone in pushing this idea. “Today this idea that there are deep connections between the very big and the very small is universally accepted, has propelled the field to its current prominence and underpins our understanding of the universe,” Turner said.  “As we say at Chicago, ideas matter!”

The Ryerson Lecture grew out of a 1972 bequest to the University by Nora and Edward L. Ryerson, a former chairman of the Board of Trustees. The lecture honors excellence in academic pursuits. A faculty committee selects the Ryerson Lecturer based on research contributions of lasting significance.

To register for the April 17 Ryerson Lecture, click here.