Catherine Cesarsky

Women in STEM
Women in STEM
Catherine Cesarsky

Birth: Feb 24, 1943

Specialty: Astronomy 

Major Contributions: 

Former Director General, European Southern Observatory

Former President of the International Astronomical Union

2020 Tate medal assigned by American Institute of Physics

Chair of the SKA Observatory Council

Image Source: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

The first female president of the International Astronomical Union, Catherine Cesarsky,  earned this position with a distinguished career in several areas of modern physics. 

After receiving her doctorate in astronomy from Harvard in 1971, she became a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology. She transitioned in 1974 to Service d’Astrophysique, a major space laboratory in France. She started as a staff member and worked her way to being the head of the SAp. In 1994 she became the Director of Direction des Sciences de la Matière, where she was the team leader for close to 3000 scientists in varying fields. 

As part of her work at DSM, she was the Principal Investigator of the ISOCAM camera on board the infrared Space Observatory of the European Space Agency and led the analysis of the data collected on star formation and galactic evolution. In 1999 she became the Director General of the European Southern Observatory, an intergovernmental research organization for astronomy that has sixteen member nations. 

While at the ESO, she was responsible for the completion of the construction of the Very Large Telescope, the beginning of the construction of The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, and she launched the studies for the European Extremely Large Telescope. These telescopes are designed as the best in the world, with the VLT being considered the most productive ground-based facility for astronomy among those operating at visible wavelengths.  During this time she was also elected for a three year term as the President of the International Astronomical Union. 

Beginning in  2006 Cesarsky served in this role, including the 2009 celebration of the International Year of Astronomy.  Departing the ESO in 2009 to become the High Commissioner of Atomic Energy in France, she was an advisor to the French government on science and energy issues. Since 2017 she has been in leadership positions within the Square Kilometre Array Organization, helping to build the two largest radio telescope arrays in the world. 

The author of more than 350 scientific papers, she also acts as the chair of the Science Program Committee for the French Space Agency and continues her research in galactic evolution and her leadership in multinational scientific endeavors.

Written by Angela Goad


ESO: Dr. Catherine Cesarsky

She Is An Astronomer: Catherine Cesarsky

Wikipedia: Catherine Cesarsky

Wikipedia: Very Large Telescope

The International Astronomical Union elects Catherine Cesarsky as new President

Catherine Cesarsky: 2023 Centennial Medal Citation

See Also:

About European Southern Observatory

Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

Astrophysics Division (SAP)

Very Large Telescope (ESO)

The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) Project