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Dr. Robert Kennicutt Jr.

Robert Kennicutt Jr. portrait

Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy
Institute of Astronomy
University of Cambridge (England)


Best known for his work on the Kennicutt–Schmidt law—which relates gas density to star-formation rates—Robert Kennicutt Jr. studies star formation and the chemical evolution of galaxies. He also is known for his role in constraining the value of the Hubble constant, the unit of measurement that astronomers and astrophysicists use to describe the expansion of the universe.

Kennicutt served as co-leader on a scientific team that definitively measured the expansion of the universe. His current research includes developing methods to characterize the evolution of distant galaxies as well as high-redshift galaxies (those moving away from our solar system).

He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, in 1973. He received his master’s degree in 1976 and doctorate in 1978, both in astronomy, from the University of Washington. He served as a Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellow at Hale Observatories from 1978 to 1980.

In 1980, Kennicutt joined the faculty in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor and became an associate professor in 1985. He moved to the University of Arizona’s Department of Astronomy in 1988 as an associate professor and astronomer at Steward Observatory. While there, he was promoted to deputy department head, professor, and editor in chief of the Astrophysical Journal.

Kennicutt moved to the University of Cambridge in 2005 and received the Plumian Chair of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy professorship, a chair established by Sir Isaac Newton and previously held by many notable scientists. Cambridge made Kennicutt a Professorial Fellow at Churchill College in 2006 and director of the Institute of Astronomy in 2008.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Astronomical Society, the International Astronomical Union, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and is a fellow of the Royal Society in the United Kingdom and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kennicutt received the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the American Institute for Physics and the American Astronomical Society’s Dannie Heineman Prize in Astrophysics, and the Gruber Cosmology Prize.

Kennicutt has written four books and more than 380 articles in peer-reviewed publications, which have been cited more than 42,000 times. Two seminal papers on star formation in galaxies have been cited more than 600 times.

As a Faculty Fellow in the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study, Kennicutt will collaborate with faculty–researchers in the College of Science.

Dr. Robert Kennicutt Jr.