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NRC Astrophysicist Dr. Sidney van den Bergh Awarded Prestigious International Prize

Spurring development of Canadian observatories and scientific excellence over six decades

VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (Marketwired) -- 06/10/14 -- National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Researcher Emeritus Dr. Sidney van den Bergh has been awarded the 2014 Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize, along with three other distinguished astronomers for contributions to the understanding of the structure and composition of the nearby Universe. Dr. van den Bergh shares the US$500,000 award with Professors Jaan Einasto (Tartu Observatory, Estonia), Kenneth Freeman (Australian National University) and Brent Tully (University of Hawaii). The prize will be presented on October 1, 2014.

Dr. van den Bergh and his fellow recipients are awarded for their ground-breaking work in Near Field Cosmology. Their research into the properties of nearby galaxies and dark matter is lauded as significantly improving current understanding of the evolution of galaxies and large-scale structure.

Following 19 years at the University of Toronto, Dr. van den Bergh joined NRC in 1978 as Director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) in Victoria, B.C. He played a pivotal role in Canada's participation in the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, which has become the most influential telescope of its size in the world. As DAO Director, he provided exceptionally strong scientific leadership as it began transitioning to become a national centre for Canadian astronomy. He was named an NRC Researcher Emeritus in 1999, a position he still holds today.

Quick Facts


--  The Gruber Cosmology Prize honours a leading cosmologist, astronomer,
    astrophysicist or scientific philosopher for theoretical, analytical,
    conceptual or observational discoveries leading to fundamental advances
    in our understanding of the universe.

--  Dr. van den Bergh, a Canadian citizen, was born in Wassenaar, Holland in
    1929.

--  Author of more than 500 research publications, there is hardly an area
    of contemporary astronomy on which Dr. van den Bergh has not written an
    important paper. 

--  Dr. van den Bergh attended Leiden University, transferring on
    scholarship to receive his A.B. (Physics) from Princeton University,
    M.Sc. (Physics) from Ohio State University and his Dr. rer. nat.
    (Astronomy) at the University of Gottingen. 

--  An Officer of the Order of Canada, Dr. van den Bergh is the recipient of
    many honours and awards, including Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow
    of the Royal Society of Canada, the Killam Prize, and the Bruce Gold
    Medal. He has been inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering
    Hall of Fame.

Quotes

"Dr. Sidney van den Bergh's research in Near Field Cosmology has given Canadians and the world a better appreciation and understanding of the universe in which we live. We congratulate Dr. van den Bergh on this tremendous honour and salute a distinguished career in astronomy that is a great source of pride for Canada."

Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology)

"Sidney van den Bergh served NRC with great distinction, both as an employee and in his continued position as Researcher Emeritus. We congratulate Dr. van den Bergh upon the receipt of this well-deserved award."

Dan Wayner, Vice-President National Research Council

"Sidney van den Bergh is truly one of the great names of modern astronomy. His brilliance and insightful work contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe. Many of his vital contributions to the study of galaxies provide the foundation for today's active research in this area, including projects using Canadian facilities now operational and being planned."

Greg Fahlman, General Manager of NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics

"For much of the second half of the 20th century astronomers worked hard and debated furiously about the size and age of the Universe. Van den Bergh is one of the three intellectual giants who shaped the development of this field. Over several decades Dr. van den Bergh repeatedly drew from his observations new insights that revealed weaknesses in the complex chains of arguments that led to often contentious conclusions concerning the rate at which the universe is expanding. For years he advocated results that were definitively demonstrated once the Hubble Space Telescope was available."

Jim Hesser, Former Director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory

"Dr. van den Bergh's influence on subsequent generations of scientists is wide and deep. His pioneering studies of nearby, old stars beautifully complement research into the most distant objects observed forming in the earliest Universe."

David Crampton, NRC Research Officer and former student of Sidney van den Bergh

"Working with Sidney has been one of the most fun and most fulfilling experiences of my career. He's got a knack for picking important but tractable problems, getting things done quickly and correctly, and then writing stuff up in this beautiful and inimitable no-nonsense style which gets to the point instantly yet somehow always points the way to something profound. He has literally written the book on major sub-fields of observational astronomy. In 1998 he published his first book on Galaxy structures and just two years later published his second, highly-cited book on "The Galaxies of the Local Group". These volumes encapsulated a major part of his research career and, in retirement, he has remained active in the study of galaxies with younger colleagues the world over."

Roberto Abraham, Professor of Astronomy, University of Toronto

"Before Canada had access to her present-day excellent telescopes operated by NRC, Dr. van den Bergh made many of his most significant contributions by exploiting photographic sky surveys such as that from the Palomar Observatory. He was 'data mining' before the term existed."

David Hartwick, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria

Additional Link

- About the Gruber Prizes

A photograph of Dr. Sidney van den Bergh is available upon request.

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