Prof. Eugene Parker accepts prestigious Crafoord Prize in Astronomy

November 11, 2021

University of Chicago Professor Emeritus Eugene Parker accepted the Crafoord Prize in Astronomy on Nov. 9 at a small reception at his home.

Parker holds medal
Image courtesy of Angela V. Olinto

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prestigious prize in 2020 for Parker's "pioneering and fundamental studies of the solar wind and magnetic fields from stellar to galactic scales." 

“I am humbled by the award of the Crafoord Prize,” said Parker in an earlier interview. “It gives strong incentive for maintaining the historic high level of research that merits the prize.” 

Parker, 94, is the namesake of the Parker Solar Probe, NASA's first mission to fly a spacecraft directly into the sun's atmosphere. The mission is a tribute to Parker's 1958 work that developed the concept of solar wind—the stream of electrically charged particles emitted by the sun. Over the course of the next five decades, Parker studied other space phenomena, including cosmic rays and magnetic fields in galaxies and plasmas.

"Parker's research has contributed extensively to astrophysics, from our current understanding of the sun to the magnetization of stars and galaxies," said Angela V. Olinto, dean of the Physical Sciences Division. "He predicted the solar wind and the interplay between cosmic rays, turbulence, and cosmic magnetic fields."

Image courtesy of Eric Parker

One of the largest prizes in science, the Crafoord Prize consists of a gold medal and a sum of six million Swedish krona (about $600,000). The Academy, which is also responsible for selecting Nobel Prize winners, awards the Crafoord Prize every three years. 

Although the prize was originally awarded in Jan. 2020, the ceremony was delayed due to COVID-19. Parker's son, Eric, flew to Sweden to pick up the prize so that Parker could accept the medal in Chicago among friends and family.

“While I am honored to receive this illustrious medal, the friendship and respect of you all means more to me than any award possibly could,” Parker said at the event.

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