Margaret Geller

Honorary Degree Citation

Margaret Geller

Margaret J. Geller. From earliest childhood to today, you have lived by asking questions and finding answers. After earning degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and Princeton, you went to Harvard and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, where you quickly became a leader in investigating the evolution of galaxies in their clustered environments and in exploring the universe. “How are the galaxies moving in space?” you asked, “and what does it mean?” When the first void of galaxies in the universe was discovered, you asked, “Where are the galaxies in the universe?” Answers to your questions often are highly technical, but you devised a key strategy for mapping the universe in thin pie-shaped slices of the celestial sphere. Using your maps, you and your colleagues found that galaxies lie on sheets and in filaments surrounding voids in an overall bubbly structure. You found the texture of the universe. Your prize-winning videos brought sophisticated scientific concepts to a wide and appreciative audience and highlighted your interest in education for all. Involvement with high school students led you to write an essay, “The Black Ribbon,” in which you protested the increasingly difficult lives of the poor in America and the lack of adequate funding for inner-city public schools. You asked, “How can we waste the lives of our poorest children?” As an astrophysicist you continue to use surveys to study the role of mysterious dark matter in the evolution of galaxy clusters and the role that the super-massive black hole at the center of our galaxy plays in ejecting stars into intergalactic space. You have shown how the environment in the universe affects the lives of its galaxies and how the environment in a city affects the lives of its children. By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Margaret J. Geller, the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.


Conferred May 24, 2009

Margaret Geller is a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, who earned her Ph.D. at Princeton, Dr. Geller was a pioneer in mapping the nearby universe, and her current research interests include the structure of the Milky Way galaxy and the distribution of dark matter in the universe. Her long-range scientific goals are to discover what the universe looks like and to understand how it came to have the rich patterns we can observe today. She is a past recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and also has received the Newcomb-Cleveland Award of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Klopsteg Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the Magellanic Premium of the American Philosophical Society. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


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