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R.C. Kennicutt (U. Arizona)
During her brief career Beatrice Tinsley published 43 papers in The Astrophysical Journal, which together established much of the foundation of the field of galactic evolution. Among the most influential of these was her first paper, based on her Ph.D. dissertation (Tinsley 1968, ApJ, 151, 547). In it she developed, virtually from scratch, the first comprehensive evolutionary synthesis models for the photometric properties, star formation rates, gas contents, and chemical evolution of galaxies. She then applied the models to two fundamental problems, the evolutionary nature of the Hubble sequence, and the changes in the observed magnitudes and colors of galaxies with cosmological lookback time. The results of the first application would help to establish and quantify the modern evolutionary picture of the Hubble sequence. The results of the second would force a reinterpretation of an entire class of cosmological tests, and thrust Tinsley into the center of an intense debate over the interpretation of observations of high-redshift galaxies.
Tinsley's paper stands out for its influence on the subsequent course of extragalactic astronomy, and as one of the boldest graduate thesis projects ever undertaken. In retrospect the most important outcome of the paper, and those that followed, was the recognition that galaxy evolution was a manifestly observable phenomenon, even out to the modest redshift limits that were accessible 30 years ago. Thereafter galaxy evolution, not cosmology, became the raison d'etre for deep surveys of the universe, a legacy that has been amply fulfilled over the last decade.