James E. Gunn

James E. Gunn bigraphy, stories - American astronomer

James E. Gunn : biography

1938 –

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.

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 1966. He joined the faculty of Princeton University two years later. Subsequently, he worked at the University of California at Berkeley, Caltech, before returning to Princeton. He is married to the astronomer Gillian Knapp and they have two children, Humberto and Marleny Gunn.


  • MacArthur Fellow, (1983)
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, Rice University (1987)
  • Heineman Prize (1988)
  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1994)
  • , Canadian Astronomical Society (2001)
  • Joseph Weber Award, American Astronomical Society (2002)
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, California Institute of Technology (2002)
  • Crafoord Prize with James Peebles and Martin Rees (2005)
  • Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society (2005)
  • Gruber Cosmology Prize (2005)
  • Honorary Degree from the University of Portsmouth (2006)
  • National Medal of Science (2009)