Charles R. Alcock

Charles R. Alcock bigraphy, stories - Astronomer

Charles R. Alcock : biography

June 15, 1951 –

Charles Roger Alcock (born June 15, 1951) is a British New Zealander astronomer. He is the current director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Born in Windsor, Berkshire, England, Alcock attended Westlake Boys High School in the North Shore of Auckland from 1965-1968. Alcock earned his Ph.D. in astronomy and physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1977. He began his career as long-term member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (1977–1981). He was associate professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1981–1986) before joining Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (1986–2000), where he directed the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics.

Alcock was previously the Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. His primary research interests are massive compact halo objects, comets and asteroids. He is the principal investigator for the Taiwan American Occultation Survey, a project aimed at taking a census of the Solar System’s population of Kuiper Belt objects (objects located beyond the orbit of Neptune).

In 2001, Alcock was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences. He received the 2000 Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize from the American Astronomical Society and the 1996 E.O. Lawrence Award in physics. Both awards recognized his pioneering work as principal investigator on the major U.S. project to search for massive compact halo objects and estimate their contribution to the dark matter component of the Milky Way’s galactic halo. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006.

Alcock joined the Center for Astrophysics in August 2004. As director, he oversees an annual federal budget of $111 million, and a staff of approximately 540 Smithsonian employees (as well as visitors, fellows and students) and 130 Harvard faculty, employees, visiting scientists and graduate students.