Icko Iben Jr. Distinguished Lecture Series in Astronomy


2018 Iben Lecture - Wendy Freedman

Over the past few decades, astronomers have for the first time identified the major constituents of the universe. Unexpectedly, the universe hardly resembles what we thought only a couple of decades ago. The universe is filled with dark matter more abundant than ordinary matter and dark energy that is causing a runaway acceleration. We do not yet have a complete picture of this unexpected universe. Some discrepancies may be hinting at new discoveries to come. New giant telescopes planned for the next decade are likely to reveal more surprises.  


Wendy Freedman is the John & Marion Sullivan University Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics from the The University of Chicago.  Professor Wendy Freedman is one of eight University Professors at the University of Chicago appointed by the president of the university. For eleven years (2003-2014) she served as the Crawford H. Greenewalt Director of the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California. A native of Toronto, Canada, she received her doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Toronto in 1984.  In 2003 Dr. Freedman became an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and, in 2007, she became an elected member of the American Philosophical Society.  She was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2000 and American Physical Society in 2011. Her principle research interests are in observational cosmology.  Dr. Freedman was a principle investigator for a team of thirty astronomers who carried out the Hubble Key Project to measure the current expansion rate of the Universe.  Her current research interests are directed at measuring both the current and past expansion rate of the universe, and in characterizing the nature of dark energy, which is causing the universe to speed up its expansion.


Founded in 1997 and named in honor of Distinguished Professor Emeritus Icko Iben Jr., the Icko Iben Jr. Distinguished Lecture Series brings a noted astronomer to campus to highlight some of the latest developments in astronomy in a forum geared for the general public.


  • Spring 2018:  "Exoplanets & The Search For Habitable Worlds," Dr. Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science, Physics, and Aerospace Engineering at the Massachusettes Institute of Technology.   
  • Spring 2015:  "What Scientists Know About The Big Bang,"  Dr. John E. Carlstrom, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Professor of Astronomy, Astrophysics and Physics at the University of Chicago, and deputy director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.
  • Fall 2012: "The Galactic Center: Unveiling the Heart of our Galaxy," Andrea Ghez, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Fall 2010: "Exploring the Dark Side of the Universe," Tony Tyson, University of California, Davis
  • Spring 2009: "Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe", Alex Filippenko, University of California, Berkeley
  • Fall 2008: "The World According to the Hubble Space Telescope", Mario Livio, STScI
  • Spring 2006: "The Mars Exploration Rover Mission", Steven W. Squyres, Cornell University
  • Fall 2004: "Massive Black Holes, or Gravity Strikes Back", Reinhard Genzel, Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics & University of California, Berkeley
  • Fall 2003: "Cosmic Collisions: How Astronomers are Saving the World", David Morrison, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Fall 2002: "The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence", William J. Welch, University of California, Berkeley
  • Spring 2002: "Large Optical Telescopes: The Next Generation", W.L.W. Sargent, California Institute of Technology
  • Fall 2000: "Are We Alone?", Steven Beckwith, Space Telescope Science Institute
  • Fall 1999: "The Universe: Big, Old, Accelerating?", Robert P. Kirshner, Harvard University
  • fall 1997: "Binary Pulsars and Einstein's Gravity", Joseph H. Taylor, Princeton University