Former AAS President Bob Kirshner Awarded Watson Medal
Robert P. Kirshner, Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard University, is the recipient of the 2014 James Craig Watson Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. Kirshner, who served as AAS president from 2004 to 2006, is being honored for his contribution to our understanding of both supernovae and the structure and evolution of the universe. His work with students using supernova light curves as calibrated standard candles has provided evidence for an accelerating expansion of the universe. The dark energy inferred from this result is one of the deepest mysteries of modern science.
The Watson medal is presented to honor contributions to astronomy and includes an award of $25,000, plus $25,000 more to support the recipient's research. It was established by the bequest of James C. Watson (1838−1880), a Canadian-American astronomer who worked mainly in Michigan, serving from 1863 to 1879 as director of Detroit Observatory. Coincidentally, Bob Kirshner held that same position during the observatory's last days as a fiefdom of the University of Michigan's Department of Astronomy (it's now a division of the university's Bentley Historical Library).
The first recipient of the Watson Medal, in 1887, was Benjamin A. Gould who, among his many other accomplishments, founded the Astronomical Journal in 1849; the AAS has published the journal since 1941.