Neta Bahcall Appointed to AAS Henry Norris Russell Lectureship

Neta's receipt of this award makes her and husband John the first astronomy couple to each receive this honor

Neta Bahcall, Visitor (1983–85, 1986–87) and Member (1982–83) in the School of Natural Sciences, has been announced as the 2024 winner of the American Astronomical Society's prestigious Henry Norris Russell Lectureship. The Lectureship is awarded on the basis of "a lifetime of eminence in astronomical research."

Bahcall, who currently serves as the Eugene Higgins Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University, was recognized on account of her "central contributions to determining the average density of matter in the universe and establishing the concordance model of cosmology, and for her dedication to astronomical education and her exemplary service to the community."

John and Neta Bahcall
John and Neta Bahcall in San Francisco in 2001

Neta is not the only member of the Bahcall family to have received the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship. In 1999, her husband, John N. Bahcall, received the same award while serving as the Richard Black Professor in the School of Natural Sciences. His tireless work "to advance the detection of solar neutrinos" was lauded in the prize citation. His other notable contributions, mentioned by the committee, included "developing the standard methods used to identify absorption line systems in QSO spectra, and putting together a comprehensive model of our Galaxy."

Both Neta and John Bahcall remain familiar fixtures in the life of the Institute to this day. Neta is a regular attendee of Bahcall Lunch events organized by the Institute for Advanced Study and Princeton University, which are named for her husband. At these lunches, members of the astrophysics community meet to hear short talks from visiting scholars and discuss the latest developments in research. John Bahcall's achievements are also commemorated at the Institute in the form of John Bahcall Fellowships, which support five-year appointments for outstanding postdoctoral scholars in the School of Natural Sciences. 

Other past recipients of the AAS Henry Norris Russell Lectureship from the School of Natural Sciences include Frank Shu, Visitor (1982), who received the award in 2023; Scott Tremaine, Professor Emeritus, whose "lifelong contributions to our understanding of the dynamics of natural cosmic systems," were honored in 2020; and Joseph Silk, Member (1975–76), whose work on galaxy formation was recognized in 2018.