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Biography | Posted: Wednesday, 7th October

Reinhard Genzel (German astrophysicist) Bio, Facts. 

Reinhard Genzel
Born/Date of Birth: 24 March 1952
Place of Birth: Bad Homburg vor der Höhe, West Germany (now Germany)
Education: University of Freiburg (BSc)
University of Bonn (MSc, DPhil)
Known for: Infrared astronomy
Submillimetre astronomy
Scientific career
Fields: Astrophysicist
Institutions: Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics
University of California, Berkeley
Reinhard Genzel ForMemRS (born 24 March 1952) is a German astrophysicist, co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, a professor at LMU and an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize for physics "for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy", which he shared with Andrea Ghez and Roger Penrose.

Life and career
Genzel was born in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe, Germany, the son of the professor for solid state physics Ludwig Genzel (1922–2003). He studied physics at the University of Freiburg and the University of Bonn where he did his PhD in 1978 and, in the same year, his PhD thesis on radioastronomy at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. He then worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a Miller Fellow from 1980 until 1982, and also Associate and Full Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley from 1981. He became Scientific Member of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in 1986, and director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching and lectured at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München where he has been honorary Professor since 1988. Since 1999 he has also a joint appointment as Full Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He also sits on the selection committee for the Shaw Prize in astronomy.

Reinhard Genzel studies infrared- and submillimetre astronomy. He and his group are active in developing ground- and space-based instruments for astronomy. They used these to track the motions of stars at the centre of the Milky Way, around Sagittarius A*, and show that they were orbiting a very massive object, now known to be a black hole. Genzel is also active in studies of the formation and evolution of galaxies.

In July 2018, Reinhard Genzel et al. reported that star S2 orbiting Sgr A* had been recorded at 7,650 km/s or 2.55% the speed of light leading up to the pericentre approach in May 2018 at about 120 AU ≈ 1400 Schwarzschild radii from Sgr A*. This allowed them to test the redshift predicted by general relativity at relativistic velocities, finding additional confirmation of the theory.


  • Miller Research Fellowship, 1980–1982
  • Otto Hahn Medal, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, 1980
  • Presidential Young Investigator Award, National Science Foundation, 1984
  • Newton Lacy Pierce Prize, American Astronomical Society, 1986
  • Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, 1990
  • De Vaucouleurs Medal, University of Texas, 2000
  • Prix Jules Janssen, Société astronomique de France (French Astronomical Society), 2000
  • Stern Gerlach Medal for experimental physics, Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, 2003
  • Balzan Prize for Infrared Astronomy, 2003
  • Albert Einstein Medal, 2007
  • Shaw Prize, 2008
  • "Galileo 2000" Prize, 2009
  • Karl Schwarzschild Medal, Deutsche Astronomische Gesellschaft, 2011
  • Crafoord Prize, Royal Swedish Academy, 2012
  • Tycho Brahe Prize, European Astronomical Society, 2012
  • Pour le Mérite, 2013
  • Harvey Prize, Technion Institute, Israel, 2014
  • Herschel Medal, Royal Astronomical Society, 2014
  • Nobel Prize in Physics, 2020

Membership of scientific societies

  • Fellow of the American Physical Society, 1985
  • Foreign member of the Académie des Sciences (Institut de France), 1998
  • Foreign member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, 2000
  • Member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, 2002
  • Senior member of the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2003
  • Foreign member of the Royal Spanish Academy of Sciences, 2011
  • Foreign member of the Royal Society of London, 2012
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Categories: 1952 births,Albert Einstein Medal recipients,Fellows of the American Physical Society,Foreign associates of the National Academy of Sciences,Foreign Members of the Royal Society,German astrophysicists,German Nobel laureates,Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize winners,Knights Commander of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany,Members of the French Academy of Sciences,Nobel laureates in Physics,Recipients of the Pour le Mérite (civil class),University of Bonn alumni,University of California, Berkeley faculty