2014 Magellanic Premium

Autumn General Meeting
Alar Toomre

The 2014 recipient of the American Philosophical Society's Magellanic Premium medal is Alar Toomre "in recognition of his beautiful and prescient numerical simulations over 40 years ago of the interactions of galaxies ("Galactic Bridges and Tails," carried out with his brother, Juri), and for his development a half century ago of the key local stability criterion (the "Q" criterion) for differentially rotating disks in galaxies. He was also the first to make the remarkable suggestion and demonstrate that elliptical galaxies in the universe could arise solely from collisions of spiral galaxies. Overall, Toomre's work has had a profound influence on the understanding of galactic dynamics and has largely set the direction of research in this now very vigorous and active field." The medal is engraved, "Alar Toomre, For pioneering studies of collisions and evolution of galaxies."

Dr. Toomre joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963 and is now Emeritus Professor of Applied Mathematics at MIT.

In 1786, two years after his election to the American Philosophical Society, John Hyacinth de Magellan of London, made a gift to the American Philosophical Society of 200 guineas for a medal to be awarded "to the author of the best discovery or most useful invention relating to navigation, astronomy, or natural philosophy (mere natural history only excepted)." The medal, named the Magellanic Premium, was first awarded in 1790. It is the oldest medal recognizing scientific achievements given by a North American institution.

The selection committee consisted of Charles Slichter (chair), Research Professor of Physics, Center for Advanced Study Professor of Physics and Chemistry Emeritus, University of Illinois; Andrea Ghez, Lauren B. Leichtman & Arthur E. Levine Chair in Astrophysics, Professor of Physics & Astronomy, University of California, Los Angeles; Leo Kadanoff, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Physics and Mathematics Emeritus, University of Chicago; and Irwin Shapiro, Director Emeritus, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Timken University Professor, Harvard University, Senior Scientist, Smithsonian Institution, and Schlumberger Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.