Dr Catherine Cesarsky

Dr Catherine Cesarsky is Chair of the SKA Observatory Council.
Photo of Dr. Catherine Cesarsky,  Chair of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory

Catherine Cesarsky is a French astronomer, known for her successful research activities in several central areas of modern astrophysics, interstellar medium, high energy astrophysics, infrared astronomy and galaxy evolution. 

Born in France and raised in Argentina, Catherine Cesarsky received a degree in Physical Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires. After graduating from Harvard University with a PhD in astronomy in 1971, Prof Cesarsky was a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology for 3 years before joining and later taking the leadership of the astrophysics department of the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA), in France, till 1993. 

As Director of Direction des Sciences de la Matière at CEA from 1994 to 1999, Catherine led 3000 scientists, engineers, and technicians active within a broad spectrum of research programmes in physics, chemistry, astrophysics and earth sciences. During her tenure as Director General of the European Southern Observatory from 1999 to 2007, Dr Cesarsky was responsible for the end of construction of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the start of the Atacama Large Millimeter and sub millimetre array (ALMA) construction and the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) studies leading to the adopted design. Prof Cesarsky was President of the International Astronomical Union (2006 to 2009) and Haut Commissaire à l’énergie atomique in France (2009 to 2012), an advisor to the French government for science and energy issues. Prof Cesarsky continues to be a high-level Science Advisor at CEA.

Catherine Cesarsky chaired the Board of Directors of the SKA Organization from October 2017 and has continued as Council Chair since SKAO became a ratified International Governmental Organisation in February 2021.

Honours and Awards: 

  • Recipient of the 1998 COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) Space Science Award and the Tate medal for Leadership in Physics from the American Institute in Physics (2020)

  • Member or Foreign Member of science Academies in France, United Kingdom, Sweden, USA, Argentina and Academia Europaea

  • Doctor Honoris Causa from the Geneva University and honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Cambridge

  • Grand Officier de l’Ordre de la Légion d’honneur, a dignity beyond Commandeur.

Last modified on 15 May 2024