Michael S. Turner is a Visiting Professor at UCLA and the Rauner Distinguished Service Professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he was the Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics from 2010 to 2019. He is a past-President of the American Physical Society and a former Assistant Director for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences of the National Science Foundation. He also served as the Senior Strategic Advisor at the Kavli Foundation from 2019 to 2022 and Chief Scientist at Argonne National Lab from 2006 to 2008.

Born in Los Angeles, CA, Turner received his B.S. from Caltech in 1971 and his Ph.D. from Stanford in 1978, both in physics. He is a theoretical astrophysicist whose scholarly contributions include predicting cosmic acceleration and coining the term dark energy, showing how quantum fluctuations evolved into the seed perturbations for galaxies during cosmic inflation, and several key ideas that led to the cold dark matter theory of structure formation.

His service to the National Academy of Sciences includes membership on more than 15 consensus studies, including three astronomy decadal surveys and chairing the influential Quarks to the Cosmos. He currently co-chairs Elementary-particle Physics: Progress and Promise, a study tasked to set a long-term vision for particle physics.

Research Interests

My research focuses on the application of forefront ideas in elementary-particle theory to cosmology and astrophysics. I believe that the deep connections between the “inner space” of the elementary particles and the “outer space” of our vast Universe hold the key to answering the most pressing questions in cosmology as well as shedding light on the fundamental particles and the laws that govern them. For example, there is evidence that the dark matter that holds the Universe together is elementary particles left over from the earliest moments, that the primeval inhomogeneity in the distribution of matter, which was revealed by COBE and which seeded all the structure in the Universe seen today, arose from quantum-mechanical fluctuations occurring during a very early burst of expansion called inflation, and that the existence of ordinary matter resulted from particle interactions in the early Universe that make the proton unstable and do not respect the symmetry between matter and antimatter. Perhaps the most profound puzzle of all is understanding why the expansion of the Universe is speeding up and not slowing down, due to the mysterious dark energy that accounts for 70% of the Universe today. My hope is that the connections between the very big and the very small, together with results from accelerators, laboratory-based experiments and cosmological observations will deepen our understanding of the origin and earliest evolution of the Universe as well as the fundamental nature of matter, energy, space and time.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 13: Physics

Secondary Section

Section 12: Astronomy