UCL Astrophysics Group


Our very own astronomer elected to US National Academy of Sciences

7 May 2024

Professor Richard Ellis has been elected as an international member of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in recognition of his “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research”.

Prof. Richard Ellis

Professor Ellis is among 120 members and 24 international members elected this year. Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honours a scientist can receive.

Over his career, Professor Ellis has tracked ever more distant galaxies in a quest to find the moment of “cosmic dawn”, when stars first lit up the Universe. His most recent work addresses the origin of the earliest galaxies.

He said: “I’m deeply honoured to be elected to the NAS. I understand it’s particularly difficult to become an international member because each country has a fixed quota. I enjoyed a highly productive 16 years in California and am very grateful to my former US colleagues for their support."

In the mid-1990s Professor Ellis was the sole Europe-based member on the committee to outline the scientific goals for what is now the James Webb Space Telescope. He was later part of the Supernova Cosmology Project, whose team discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe. He was also the principal investigator on the Hubble Ultra Deep Field campaign, which provided the first census of star-forming galaxies less than a billion years after the Big Bang.

Prior to UCL, Professor Ellis was based at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) as Steele Professor of Astronomy and as Director of Caltech’s Palomar Observatory.

Professor Ellis’s other recent awards include the 2023 Gruber Cosmology Prize, the 2022 Royal Medal from the Royal Society, and the 2020 Michael Faraday Gold Medal from the Institute of Physics.

Those elected to the NAS this year bring the total number of active members to 2,617 and the total number of international members to 537.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, non-profit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognises achievement in science by election to membership, and — with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine — provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the US federal government and other organisations.

The complete list of new NAS members is available on the Academy’s website.