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2016 Dirac Lecture

Image credit: Harry Chalker


Thursday, 13 October, 2016 -
17:45 to 19:30


Tyree Room, John Niland Scientia Building


Faculty of Science

Type of event: 

Special Event

Audience / Guests: 

Public / All

Dark Matter in the Universe

Presented by 2016 Dirac Medallist Kenneth Freeman FAA FRS Duffield Professor, School of Astronomy & Astrophysics,The Australian National University.


The universe is made of stars and galaxies that we can see with our optical and radio telescopes, but behind what we see is about five times more mass in the form of the mysterious invisible dark matter that pervades the entire universe. We know the dark matter is there because we can measure its gravity, but we still don't know what it is.

The story of the discovery of dark matter in the universe started in 1933. It is an intriguing saga of brilliant discoveries that were ignored for decades, other discoveries that turned out to be correct but for the wrong reasons, and the gradual realisation that dark matter defines the entire structure of the universe in which we live. Without it, our universe would be completely different. I would like to tell this story, and show how the properties of the dark matter that we measure now were driven by events that began very shortly after the Big Bang.


Ken Freeman is Duffield Professor of Astronomy at the Australian National University (Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Mount Stromlo Observatory) in Canberra. He studied mathematics at the University of Western Australia and theoretical astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, followed by a postdoctoral year at McDonald Observatory (University of Texas) with G. de Vaucouleurs and a year as a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He returned to Australia in 1967 as a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow at Mt Stromlo Observatory, joined the Mount Stromlo staff in 1970 and has been there ever since.

His research interests are in the formation and dynamics of galaxies and globular clusters, and particularly in the problem of dark matter in galaxies: he was one of the first to point out (1970) that spiral galaxies contain a large fraction of dark matter. In 2002, with J. Bland-Hawthorn, he introduced the concepts of Galactic archaeology which provided the foundation for a new era of massive spectroscopic stellar surveys now under way in Australia and elsewhere.

For his current research, he uses the optical and radio telescopes in Australia, and also observes with large optical telescopes in Spain, Chile, and Hawaii.  He has written about 440 refereed research articles.

He won the Dannie Heineman prize of the American Institute of Physics and the American Astronomical Society for 1999. He won the Prime Minister's Prize for Science in 2012, the Matthew Flinders Medal of the Australian Academy of Science in 2013, and was the Henry Norris Russell Lecturer (American Astronomical Society) in 2013. In 2014 he shared the international Gruber Prize for Cosmology.

He became a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA) in 1981 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (FRS) in 1998.

Please register your attendance below. Light refreshments and catering will be served from 5:50pm with the Lecture beginning at 6:30pm.






The Dirac Lecture is proudly supported by The Australian Institute of Physics NSW Branch and The Royal Society of New South Wales.