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Election Year: 1955
Scientific Discipline: Astronomy
Membership Type: Member
Born in Lahore, then a part of British Colonial India, in 1910, theoretical astrophysicist Chandrasekhar was elected to the Academy only two years after he became a U.S. citizen in 1953. Chandrasekhar was noted for his work in the field of stellar evolution, and in the early 1930s he was the first to theorize that a collapsing massive star would become an object so dense that not even light could escape it. Although this finding was greeted with some skepticism at the time it was announced, it went on to form the foundation of the theory of black holes, and eventually earned him a shared Nobel Prize in physics for 1983.
In addition to his work on star degeneration, Chandrasekhar contributed important theorems on the stability of cosmic masses in the presence of gravitation, rotation, and magnetic fields; this work proved to be crucial for the understanding of the spiral structure of galaxies. From the time he came to the United States in 1936 until his death in 1995, Chandrasekhar was affiliated with the University of Chicago and its Yerkes Observatory.