Wendy L. Freedman

Chair and Director of the Carnegie Observatories

Dr. Wendy L. Freedman became a faculty member of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena, California in 1987 -- the first woman to join the Observatories' permanent scientific staff. In 2003, she was named the Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair and Director of the Carnegie Observatories. Continuing in the tradition of the Observatories’ founding director, George Ellery Hale, who built, in the early 20th century, three of the world’s largest telescopes, Freedman is spearheading the effort to construct the 25-meter class Giant Magellan Telescope.

Dr. Freedman received many honors for her studies and leadership in bringing observational cosmology into the 21st century. These awards include the American Philosophical Society’s Magellanic Premium Award (2002), the Royal Astronomical Society’s George Darwin Lectureship (2001), and the Cosmos Club Foundation’s John P. McGovern Award in Science (2000). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000, the National Academy of Sciences in 2003 and to the American Philosophical Society in 2007. Most recently, she was recognized with the prestigious 2009 Gruber Cosmology Prize for her work on the current rate of expansion of the universe, or the Hubble constant.

Since the completion of the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project, Dr. Freedman has been studying the behavior of supernovae to better determine the nature of the mysterious cosmic phenomenon known as dark energy, which appears to play an essential role in the rate at which the universe is expanding. Freedman has also turned to further refining the Hubble constant. Using NASA’s space-based Spitzer telescope, she is leading a team of scientists to decrease the uncertainly in the Hubble constant from 10 percent to 3 percent.

Dr. Freedman grew up in Toronto, Canada, and received her BSc (1979), MS (1980), and PhD (1984) in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Toronto.