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 theUniversity 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 and joined the Mount Stromlo staff in 1970. He has been there ever since, except for a year at the Kapteyn Institute in Groningen in 1976, and many shorter visits to STScI, ESO, MPE and other astronomical institutes over the years.
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 the US, Australia and elsewhere. He is currently involved in a large high-resolution spectroscopic survey (GALAH, with the HERMES spectrometer on the Anglo Australian Telescope) to measure abundances of about 30 chemical elements in a million stars in the Milky Way. He has written about 440 refereed research articles and a couple of popular-level books.
He was the Aaronson Lecturer at Steward Observatory in 1990, Oort Professor in Leiden in 1994 and Blaauw Professor in Groningen in 2003. His prizes include the Dannie Heineman prize of the American Institute of Physics and the American Astronomical Society for 1999; the (Australian) Prime Minister's Prize for Science in 2012; the Matthew Flinders Medal of the Australian Academy of Science in 2013; the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship (American Astronomical Society) in 2013; and he shared the international Gruber Prize for Cosmology in 2014.
He became Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA) in 1981, Fellow of the Royal Society of London (FRS) in 1998, and Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2017.