James Gunn (astronomer)

James Edward Gunn (born October 21, 1938) is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Astronomy at Princeton University. Gunn's early theoretical work in astronomy has helped establish the current understanding of how galaxies form, and the properties of the space between galaxies. He also suggested important observational tests to confirm the presence of dark matter in galaxies, and predicted the existence of a Gunn–Peterson trough in the spectra of distant quasars.

Cosmology may look like a science, but it isn't a science... A basic tenet of science is that you can do repeatable experiments, and you can't do that in cosmology.

James E. Gunn[1]

James Edward Gunn
James E. Gunn (2000 photo)
Born (1938-10-21) October 21, 1938
Alma materRice University
Known forGunn–Peterson trough
AwardsHeineman Prize (1988)
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1994)
Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation (2002)
Crafoord Prize (2005)
Gruber Prize (2005)
National Medal of Science (2008)
Bruce Medal (2013)
Kyoto Prize (2019)
Scientific career
FieldsAstronomy and Astrophysics
InstitutionsPrinceton University

Much of Gunn's later work has involved leadership in major observational projects. He developed plans for one of the first uses of digital camera technology for space observation, a project that led to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the most extensive three-dimensional mapping of the universe ever undertaken. He also played a major role with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Gunn earned his bachelor's degree at Rice University in Houston, Texas, in 1961, and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1965. He joined the faculty of Princeton University two years later. Subsequently, he worked at the University of California at Berkeley and Caltech before returning to Princeton. He is married to the astronomer Gillian Knapp and they have two children, Humberto and Marleny Gunn.


Further reading

  • Ann K. Finkbeiner. A Grand and Bold Thing: An Extraordinary New Map of the Universe Ushering In A New Era of Discovery (2010), on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey


  1. A singular conundrum: How odd is our universe?, Science News Focus by Adrian Cho, Vol. 317, Issue 5846, pp. 1848–1850 DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5846.1848 28 September 2007
  2. Kitta MacPherson (17 September 2009). "Gunn wins National Medal of Science". Princeton University. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
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