Joseph Silk
USA/UK
2011 Balzan Prize for The Early Universe (From the Planck Time to the First Galaxies)

For his pioneering work on the early evolution of the Universe, studying the effects of various physical processes and phenomena such as dark matter and space curvature on the fluctuations of the Cosmic Microwave Background and the formation of galaxies of different types.


Joseph Silk was born in London, England, studied at the University of Cambridge and Harvard University, and worked for three decades at the University of California, Berkeley. He is Professor of Physics at the Institut d’Astrophysique, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, Homewood Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and Senior Fellow in the Beecroft Institute of Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, Department of Physics, University of Oxford. From 1999 to September 2011 he was Savilian Professor of Astronomy at the University of Oxford. Joseph Silk has done important early work on inhomogeneities in the cosmic microwave background and how they are influenced by density fluctuations in the matter of the early universe, in particular by a damping effect that bears his name. These were decisive contributions that helped transform cosmology into a high-precision science.
Joseph Silk has also made pioneering advances in understanding the nature of dark matter, and explored novel indirect methods for its detection. The latter have inspired very large experiments with new types of telescopes.
His studies of galaxy formation and his work on the dynamics of mass loss and the feedback mechanisms from star formation and evolution have formed a very significant basis for subsequent work in this important field.
Joseph Silk is also renowned as an excellent lecturer and writer of popular books.
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