Professor Gerard F Gilmore FRS
Photo credit - Lucinda Douglas-Menzies
Professor of Experimental Philosophy, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge
Gerry Gilmore leads efforts to understand the structure and origin of our Galaxy. He led a revival of star-count analysis that first showed that the Galaxy possesses a "thick" disc, and helped to show that the thick disc formed early in the Galaxy's life. Our current understanding of how the masses of stars are distributed at birth was produced by Gilmore's team. In the early 1990s with a student he obtained the still standard estimate of the mass surface density associated with the discs. This study set the pattern of future work. He pioneered the use of spectral surveys to unravel the Galaxy's history through its chemistry and established that stars in the halo of the Galaxy are chemically distinct from stars in the Galaxy's satellites, even though much of the halo must consist of stars stripped from satellites. In 1994 with a student he discovered the Galaxy's most important satellite after the Magellanic Clouds. As its leading UK proponent, Gilmore played a big role in selection of ESA's revolutionary Gaia mission. He is the driving force behind the ESO-Gaia survey, which has over 250 co-investigators and will obtain spectra designed to complement data from Gaia.