f  Starmus | Advisory Board

Advisory Board


Stephen Hawking

Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist

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Considered one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein, his work on the origins and structure of the universe, the Big Bang to black holes, has revolutionized the field of cosmology. Moreover, his best-sellers – A Brief History of Time (1988), The Universe in a Nutshell (2001) and The Grand Design (2010) – have helped popularize science and make it accessible to everyone….. A Brief History of Time broke all sales records for books in a way that would have been difficult to predict. By May 1995 it had been in The Sunday Times best-sellers list for 237 weeks, breaking the previous record of 184 weeks, selling 10 million copies in ten years. This deed was recorded in the 1998 Guinness Book of Records. He was diagnosed with ALS a form of Motor Neurone Disease, shortly after his 21st Birthday. In spite of being wheelchair bound and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication he still manages to combine a family life (he has three children and three grandchildren) and his continued research into theoretical physics, together with an extensive programme of travel and public lectures. He also still hopes to travel into space one day! Stephen Hawking was born on 8th January 1942 (exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. The son of a research biologist and a medical research secretary, his upbringing gave him a strong curiosity about the universe. He was drawn to physics and mathematics as the sciences that offer the most fundamental insights into the world. He studied natural sciences at Oxford University, where he was awarded a first, and then moved to Cambridge to begin a PhD in cosmology. Professor Hawking has received a dozen honorary degrees and has received numerous awards, medals and decorations, including the Order of the British Empire (1982), The Prince of Asturias Award for Concord (1989) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009), the highest civilian award in the United States. He is also a member of the Royal Society and the National Academy of Science. In 1979 he accepted the post of Lucasion Chair of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a post once held by Isaac Newton. Stephen Hawking’s voice was used in the song “Keep Talking” on Pink Floyd’s last album “The Division Bell”.

Peter Gabriel

British singer and songwriter

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Peter Gabriel is a British singer and songwriter best known for his role as lead vocalist and flautist for the progressive rock group Genesis. Since leaving Genesis in 1975 he has had a successful solo career as a singer-songwriter, soundtrack composer and innovator in visual presentation of music, music videos and digital methods of recording and distributing music. He also became well known as an anti-Apartheid activist and for his efforts to bring different styles of international music to the attention of the West by establishing the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) Festival, his own Real World label and recording studios, as well as the addition of world music performers and styles into his own music. He has worked extensively for Amnesty International as well as many other humanitarian efforts, such as founding his own human rights organization Witness and co-founding, with Richard Branson and Nelson Mandela, world human rights advocacy group The Elders in July 2007. His dedication to humanitarian causes was recognized with the Nobel Peace Laureates’ Man of Peace Award in 2006 and Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience honour in 2008. His career in music has been cited as an inspiration by many artists, including U2, R.E.M., Kate Bush, Moby, Marillion, Simple Minds, It Bites and Elbow.His greatest commercial success came with the “So” album in 1986, which was a worldwide success and earned him the British Phonographic Industry Award for British Male Solo Artist the following year. His lasting impact on music has been recognized by the Music Industry Trusts’ Award in 2004, the Frankfurt Music Prize, the first Pioneer Award at the BT Digital Music Awards, the Q Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) Icon Award in 2007, MIDEM Personality of the Year in 2008 and Polar Music Prize in 2009. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010 and as a solo artist in 2014.

Alexei Leonov

Russian Cosmonaut

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On 18 March, 1965, Alexei Leonov became the first human to conduct a space walk. This historic event occurred on the Voskhod 2 flight. He was outside the spacecraft for 12 minutes and nine seconds connected to the craft by a 5.35 meter tether. At the end of the spacewalk, his spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter the airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit’s pressure to bleed off and was barely able to get back inside the capsule. From 1976 to 1982, Leonov was the commander of the cosmonaut team (“Chief Cosmonaut”) and deputy director of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. Leonov is an accomplished artist whose published books include albums of his artistic works.

Brian May

Astrophysicist, musician, singer and songwriter

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Brian May, CBE, has a PHD in astrophysics from Imperial College, and was Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University from 2008 to 2013. He has also published research articles in the field of the solar Zodiacal dust cloud. Dr May is most widely known as lead guitarist and founding member of the legendary rock band Queen. He is an active animal rights advocate and was appointed a vice-president of animal welfare charity the RSPCA in September 2012.

Jack Szostak

Nobel Prize Biologist and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School

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Biologist and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Alexander Rich Distinguished Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Professor Szostak was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol W. Greider, for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres. Prof. Szostak has made significant contributions to the field of genetics and is credited with the construction of the world’s first yeast artificial chromosome. Szostak lab focuses on the challenges of understanding the origin of life on Earth and the construction of artificial cellularlife in the laboratory. He has received Hans Sigrist and Dr A. H. Heineken prizes, a Lasker award, the United States National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology and the Genetics Society of America Medal.

Garik Israelian


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Garik Israelian, an astrophysicist at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (Spain), is the creative director and spiritual father of the STARMUS Festival. In 1999 he led a collaboration reported in the journal Nature that found the first observational evidence that supernova explosions are responsible for the formation of black holes. His research has led to several high profile discoveries published in Nature and other professional journals on topics such as extrasolar planets, massive stars and black hole binary systems. Dr Israelian has spoken at dozens of professional conferences, including TED Global. He was awarded the 2010 Ambartsumian Prize for Astrophysics, Physics or Mathematics, along with Michel Mayor and Nuno Santos, for the studies of extrasolar planets and their parent stars.

Jill Tarter

Director of the Center for SETI

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Director of the Center for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) research at the SETI Institute in California (USA), Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the California Academy of Sciences. She was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2004. She was awarded the Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology (2001), the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization (2005) and the 2009 TED Prize. Dr Tarter’s astronomical work is illustrated in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact. In the film version of Contact the protagonist, Ellie Arroway, is played by Jodie Foster. Arroway was ‘largely based’ on Tarter’s work. Dr Tarter has spoken around the world and has published dozens of articles about SETI to engage earthlings across the planet in this important search and to encourage young people (especially young women) to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology.

Robert Williams


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Professor Robert Williams, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is President of the International Astronomical Union. (IAU). He is an STScI Distinguished Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Physics and Astronomy Department in Baltimore. Professor Williams served as Hubble STScI Director from 1993 until 1998, before which he had been Director of Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile. He was instigator and leader of the Hubble Deep Field, one of humankind’s deepest, most detailed visible-light views of the Universe. A champion of research and public outreach, Prof. Williams has lectured widely on recent astronomical discoveries and their relation to human understanding. He is an avid runner and cyclist.

Richard Dawkins

Ethologist & Evolutionary Biologist

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Ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author of ‘The Selfish Gene’, ‘The Extended Phenotype’ and ‘The God Delusion’ among others. Was the University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science.