University of Rochester

Astronomer Judith Pipher Named to National Women's Hall of Fame

January 30, 2007

Judith Pipher
Judith Pipher
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(credit Trippy Photography)

Judith Pipher, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, will be inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame for her excellence as a teacher of young women and men, and for the exceptional advances she's given to the field of infrared astronomy. The induction ceremony will take place on Oct. 6 and 7, 2007.

"Judy is one of our nation's leading astronomers," says Peter Lennie, the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at the University of Rochester. "Through a career marked by major scientific accomplishments, Judy has contributed decisively to our understanding of Earth's astronomical origins, and to the technology that enabled that success."

A 2002 recipient of the University's Susan B. Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award, Pipher has been a member of the University faculty since 1971, just after earning her doctorate from Cornell University in the newly emerging field of infrared astronomy.

"When I entered the field 40 years ago, roughly 12 percent of the scientists were women, and the percentage is about the same now," says Pipher. "The good news, though, is that we are starting to see a larger percentage of women in our undergraduate classes. But we have to translate this to the next level—women getting doctorates in astronomy, too."

Pipher was one of the first U.S. astronomers to turn an infrared array toward the skies. In 1983, Pipher and colleagues mounted a prototype infrared detector onto the telescope in a small campus observatory, taking the first-ever telescopic infrared pictures of the moon. She has since been involved in the development of near-infrared detector arrays, serving as one of the main forces moving the field from rudimentary single-pixel devices to today's virtually flawless multi-megapixel arrays. Pipher's work in infrared technology has had a profound influence on all subsequent work in astronomy, the study of our astronomical origins, and the study of the structure and evolution of the universe.

"Judy is one of our nation's leading astronomers"

In 2003, NASA launched the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is equipped with infrared detectors Pipher helped design. With the telescope now in orbit, Pipher uses the instrument to investigate, among other things, clusters of forming stars and brown dwarfs, massive, planet-like objects too small to become stars, and hence too cool and dark to be seen by ground-based telescopes. Likewise, interstellar dust obscures much of the visible spectrum of light, necessitating infrared instruments in space to peer through to the object beyond.

Pipher has chaired or served on a large number of the national committees that determine the course of funding in astrophysics for NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Eight other women were named with Pipher as the newest members of the hall of fame, including Eleanor Baum, Swanee Hunt, Winona Duke, and posthumously, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Catherine Filene Shouse, Henrietta Szold, Martha Coffin Wright and Julia Child.

The National Women's Hall of Fame is a national membership organization recognizing and celebrating the achievements of individual American women. The Hall was founded in Seneca Falls, N.Y., the site of the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848. Two hundred and seventeen women have been inducted since the Hall's founding in 1969.




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