American Philosophical Society
Member History

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1. Mathematical and Physical Sciences[X]
101. Astronomy[X]
1Name:  Dr. Alar Toomre
 Institution:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology
 Year Elected:  2016
 Class:  1. Mathematical and Physical Sciences
 Subdivision:  101. Astronomy
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1937
Alar Toomre has been a true pioneer with his elegant and prescient studies, starting more than 40 years ago, of the evolution of the structure of galaxies. He introduced to these studies numerical simulations at a time when very clever approaches were needed to obtain useful results, due to the limitations of computer capabilities in that era. He also developed the deep stability criterion, the so-called Q criterion, for differentially rotating stellar disks. He was, in addition, the first to suggest and demonstrate that elliptical galaxies result from collisions of spiral galaxies. His early studies of galactic mergers were spectacular achievements. Overall, Toomre’s work has had a profound influence on the understanding of galactic dynamics and has largely set the direction of research in this now very vigorous and active field. Finally he made some substantial contributions to our understanding of the motions of the Earth about its center of mass. Among other awards, Toomre was awarded the 2014 Magellanic Premium of the American Philosophical Society in recognition of his beautiful and prescient numerical simulations over 40 years ago of the interactions of galaxies ("Galactic Bridges and Tails," carried out with his brother, Juri), and for his development a half century ago of the key local stability criterion (the "Q" criterion) for differentially rotating disks in galaxies.
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