The American Philosophical Society awarded its 2018 Magellanic Premium Medal to astronomer Sandra Faber at a meeting of the society in Philadelphia on April 26.
Faber, a professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, was recognized “for her contributions to the study of galaxy formation and evolution, which have transformed our understanding of these building blocks of the Universe and set the agenda for years to come. From the discovery of the Faber-Jackson relation to her fundamental contributions to the cold dark matter theory of galaxy formation, she has made galaxy formation and evolution a quantitative science.”
Faber has been one of the leading optical astronomers since the 1970s, and her contributions have changed the study of galaxies from a qualitative to a quantitative science. Her observations and analysis showed the quantitative relations among mass, size, velocity dispersion, stellar populations, and resident black holes in the massive elliptical galaxies that are the bedrock of extragalactic astronomy. Among the earliest observers to recognize the prevalence and importance of dark matter, she also was among the earliest to note how feedback from supernova winds would alter the evolution of galaxies. Her numerous prescient contributions form the basis on which modern understanding of galaxy evolution now stands.
Faber has received many awards and honors for her work, including the National Medal of Science in 2013. She was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 2001.
The Magellanic Premium Medal was established in 1786 from a gift of 200 guineas by John Hyacinth de Magellan of London, “for a gold medal to be awarded from time to time under prescribed terms, to the author of the best discovery or most useful invention relating to navigation, astronomy, or natural philosophy (mere natural history only excepted).” First awarded in 1790, it is the oldest medal recognizing scientific achievements given by a North American institution.