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Joseph Ivor Silk FRS (born 3 December 1942) is a British astrophysicist. He was the Savilian Chair of Astronomy at the University of Oxford from 1999 to September 2011.

Joseph Silk
Joseph Silk.jpg
Born (1942-12-03) 3 December 1942 (age 76)
London, England
Alma materClare College, Cambridge
Harvard University
AwardsRoyal Society Bakerian Medal (2007)
Balzan Prize (2011)
Gruber Prize in Cosmology (2019)
Scientific career
InstitutionsInstitut d'astrophysique de Paris
University of Oxford
University of California, Berkeley
Johns Hopkins University
Doctoral studentsMax Tegmark[1]

He is an Emeritus Fellow of New College, Oxford[2] and a Fellow of the Royal Society (elected May 1999). He was awarded the 2011 Balzan Prize for his works on the early Universe.[3] Silk has given more than two hundred invited conference lectures, primarily on galaxy formation and cosmology.


He was educated at Tottenham County School (1954–1960) and went on to study Mathematics at the University of Cambridge (1960–1963).[4] He gained his PhD in Astronomy from Harvard in 1968. Silk took up his first post at Berkeley in 1970, and the Chair in Astronomy in 1978. Following a career of nearly 30 years there, Silk returned to the UK in 1999 to take up the Savilian Chair at the University of Oxford. He is currently Professor of Physics at the Institut d'astrophysique de Paris, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Homewood Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University (since in 2010), and Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College from 2015 to 2019.[5]

Silk dampingEdit

The structure of the cosmic microwave background anisotropies is principally determined by two effects: acoustic oscillations and diffusion damping. The latter is also called collisionless or Silk damping after Joseph Silk.


Silk has over 800 publications, nearly 200 as first author, of which 3 have been cited over 1000 times, over 50 have been published in Nature and 12 in Science.[6]

In 2011, Silk delivered a talk, "The Creation of the Universe," at the first Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands. The talk was subsequently published in the book Starmus: 50 Years of Man in Space.[7]

Books by Joseph SilkEdit

  • The Infinite Cosmos, Oxford University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-19-953361-9
  • On the Shores of the Unknown: A Short History of the Universe, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-521-83627-1, Google Link
  • The Big Bang, W.H. Freeman, 2005, ISBN 0-7167-1812-X
  • Cosmic Enigmas, Springer, 1994, ISBN 1-56396-061-3, Google Link


External linksEdit