Advisory Board Memorial

Professor John P. Huchra

John P. Huchra, Ph.D., Hon M.A., FAPS, FAAAS is President of the American Astronomical Society and the Robert O. & Holly Thomis Doyle Professor of Cosmology and the Senior Advisor to the Provost for Research Policy at Harvard University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
His research interests include the study of the Large-Scale Structure in the Universe, the general study of Observational Cosmology including the determination of the expansion rate, age, and fate of the Universe, observations of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), and galactic evolution, particularly star formation in galaxies and globular star cluster systems surrounding other galaxies.
In the early 1980s John worked on the Tully-Fisher relation, which links the intrinsic luminosity of a spiral galaxy with the rotational velocity of its stars. He found that with regard to galaxies in the Coma cluster there was a departure of up to 20% from the supposed correlation.
He went on in 1982 with a number of colleagues to apply the relation to the Local Group of galaxies to see if the peculiar motion tentatively identified by Vera Rubin could be detected. The peculiar velocities of several hundred galaxies in the region of the Virgo cluster were measured. He found that velocities in the direction of Virgo steadily increased, while decreasing on the other side. The result has been interpreted by some as evidence for the existence of The Great Attractor, a proposed massive concentration of galaxies lying beyond the Hydra-Centaurus supercluster.
In 1986 in collaboration with Margaret Geller, John began a galactic survey for the Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). He used a 1.5-meter telescope located on Mount Hopkins, Tucson, Arizona and sought to measure the red shifts of galaxies below a magnitude of 15.5 and falling within a wedge of sky 6° wide, 120° long, and out to a distance of about 300 million light years. By 1989 he had mapped the positions of 10,000 galaxies.
To his surprise, instead of producing a uniform distribution his maps revealed large voids within which huge clusters of galaxies were distributed. The largest structure he observed, dubbed The Great Wall, stretched 500 million light years without its edge being found.
John coauthored Optical Spectroscopy of Type Ia Supernovae, 2MTF I. The Tully-Fisher Relation in the 2MASS J, H, and K Bands, The reddest ISO-2MASS quasar, Narrow-line AGN in the ISO-2MASS Survey, The XMM-Newton wide-field survey in the COSMOS field: III. optical identification and multiwavelength properties of a large sample of X-ray selected sources, Groups of Galaxies in the Two Micron All-Sky Redshift Survey, Dusty waves on a starry sea: the mid-infrared view of M31, Magellan Spectroscopy of AGN Candidates in the COSMOS Field, Hubble Space Telescope Observations of Star Clusters in M101, and The ROSAT North Ecliptic Pole Survey: The X-ray Catalog. Read the full list of his publications!
John earned his B.S. in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1970 and his Ph.D. in Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1976. He received an honorary M.A. at Harvard University in 2005. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1991 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1994.