Open main menu

Richard Salisbury Ellis CBE FRS (born 25 May 1950, Colwyn Bay, Wales) is Professor of Astrophysics at the University College London. He previously served as the Steele Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He was awarded the 2011 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.[2][3]

Richard Ellis

Richard Ellis-49 copy.jpg
Richard Ellis at Caltech in 2008
Richard Salisbury Ellis

(1950-05-25) 25 May 1950 (age 69)
Alma materUniversity College London
University of Oxford
AwardsBakerian Lecture 1998

Fellow Institute of Physics 1998
Fellow University College London 1999
Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science 2001
Honorary Doctorate (D.Sc.) Durham University 2002

Gruber Prize in Cosmology (shared) 2007
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society 2011
Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (shared) 2014
Carl Sagan Memorial Prize (shared) 2017
Fellow & Corresponding Member, Australian Academy of Science 2018
Honorary Doctorate (D.Sc.) Edinburgh University 2019
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity College London (2015–present)
Caltech (1999–2015)
University of Cambridge (1993–1999)
Durham University (1974–1993)
ThesisStellar abundances and nucleosynthesis (1974)
Doctoral advisorDonald Blackwell
Doctoral studentsAmy Barger


Ellis read astronomy at University College London and obtained a DPhil at Wolfson College at the University of Oxford in 1974.[4]

Career and researchEdit

In 1985 he was appointed professor at the University of Durham (with two years at the Royal Greenwich Observatory) for his research contributions. In 1993 he moved to the University of Cambridge as the Plumian Professor and became a professorial fellow at Magdalene College. He served as director of the Institute of Astronomy from 1994 to 1999, at which point he moved to Caltech. Shortly after his arrival at Caltech, he was appointed as director of the Palomar Observatory which he later reorganized as the Caltech Optical Observatories taking into account the growing importance of Caltech's role in the Thirty Meter Telescope. After 16 years at Caltech, in September 2015 he returned to Europe via the award of a European Research Council Advanced Research Grant held at University College London (UCL).

Ellis works primarily in observational cosmology, considering the origin and evolution of galaxies, the evolution of large scale structure in the universe, and the nature and distribution of dark matter. He worked on the Morphs collaboration studying the formation and morphologies of distant galaxies.[5] Particular interests include applications using gravitational lensing and high-redshift supernovae. He was a member of the Supernova Cosmology Project whose leader, Saul Perlmutter, shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics for the team's surprising discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe. His most recent discoveries relate to searches for the earliest known galaxies, seen when the Universe was only a few percent of its present age.

At Caltech, Ellis was director of the Palomar Observatory from 2000 to 2005 and played a key role in developing the scientific and technical case, as well as building the partnership, for the Thirty Meter Telescope - a collaborative effort involving Caltech, the University of California, Canada, Japan, China and India destined for Mauna Kea, Hawaii. When constructed this will be the largest ground-based optical and near-infrared telescope.

Awards and honoursEdit

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1995, appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours[citation needed] and a Fellow and Corresponding Member of the Australian Academy of Science in 2018.


  1. ^ "North Wales astronomoer helping build one of world's largest telescopes". Daily Post (North Wales). 5 August 2008.
  2. ^ Curriculum Vitae (MS Word)
  3. ^ Lemonick, Michael D. (27 August 2006). "How the Stars Were Born". Time. 168 (10): 42–51. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  4. ^ Ellis, Richard S. (1974). Stellar abundances and nucleosynthesis (Ph.D. thesis). University of Oxford – via Oxford University Research Archive.
  5. ^ "The Morphs" Durham University, United Kingdom

External linksEdit