Dr. Eric J. Chaisson
is an American astrophysicist and science educator best known for his
research, teaching, and writing on the interdisciplinary science of
cosmic evolution. He is also noted for his original
research on the interstellar clouds and emission nebulae of the Milky
Way Galaxy, and for his leadership in improving science education
nationally and internationally. He conducts research at the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and teaches natural science
at Harvard University.
Eric earned his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1972 and has since held appointments at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Johns Hopkins University, Space Telescope Science Institute, and most recently Tufts University, where he was for nearly 20 years director of the Wright Center for Science Education while holding research professorships in the department of physics and in the school of education. He is now back at the Harvard College Observatory and also serves with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, where he teaches an annual undergraduate course on the subject of cosmic evolution.
He has published nearly 200 papers in professional journals and written a dozen books, several of which have won awards, such as the B.J. Bok Prize (Harvard) for astronomical discoveries, the Smith-Weld Prize (Harvard) for literary merit, and the Kistler Award for increasing understanding of subjects shaping the future of humanity. He has also won scholarly prizes from Phi Beta Kappa and the American Institute of Physics, a Certificate of Merit from NASA for work on the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as fellowships from the Sloan Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences.
Eric’s books include Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature, Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos, Cosmic Dawn: The Origins of Matter and Life, and The Hubble Wars: Astrophysics Meets Astropolitics in the Two-Billion-Dollar Struggle over the Hubble Space Telescope.
His major research interests are twofold: His scientific research addresses an interdisciplinary, thermodynamic study of physical, biological, and cultural phenomena, seeking to understand the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars, planets, life, and society, thus devising a unifying cosmic-evolutionary worldview of the universe and our sense of place within it writ large. His educational work engages master teachers and computer animators to create better methods, technological aids, and novel curricula to enthuse teachers, instruct students, and enhance scientific literacy of everyone from grade school to grad school.
Watch GF2045: Eric Chaisson and Cosmic Evolution: Faculty Insight with Eric Chaisson. Read his Wikipedia profile.