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Fellows Directory

Alexander Dalgarno

Alexander Dalgarno

Professor Alexander Dalgarno FRS


Elected: 1972


Alexander Dalgarno was a theoretical physicist who pioneered the study of astrophysical objects via the behaviour of their constituent molecules. His contributions to molecular physics led to an improved understanding of our planet’s atmosphere, and enabled valuable insights into the structure of the interstellar medium — the matter that fills the space between the stars.

Alexander’s work on the processes governing molecular behaviour was particularly important in the interpretation of spectroscopic data obtained from astronomical observations. When used in this way, his theoretical models helped identify planetary energy sources on Mars, Venus and Jupiter, and shed light on the vast molecular clouds where stars are born.

As an Honorary Board Member of the International Society for Theoretical Chemical Physics, Alexander was a member of many of the world’s leading scientific bodies. The recipient of numerous prizes and awards for his influential work, and in 1998 the asteroid 6941 was named Asteroid Dalgarno in his honour.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Astronomy and physics
    • Astrophysics, Astronomy
  • Chemistry
    • Chemistry, theoretical


  • Hughes Medal

    For his contributions to the theory of atomic and molecular process, and in particular its application to astrophysics. His studies of energy depositions provide the key to understanding emissions from terrestrial aurorae, planetary atmospheres and comets.

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