Michael S. Turner is the Bruce V. & Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at the UChicago and Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at Chicago, which he helped to establish in 2004. He is a theoretical astrophysicist whose interests in cosmology span the earliest moments of creation to the accelerated expansion observed today. Turner and his colleagues predicted cosmic acceleration and he coined the term dark energy. His fundamental contributions to inflationary theory include showing how quantum fluctuations evolved into the seed perturbations for galaxies during inflation and critical tests of inflation including the connection between cosmological observables and the underlying inflationary potential. Turner was responsible for key ideas that led to the cold dark matter theory of structure formation and his early work on big-bang nucleosynthesis was crucial to establishing the case for nonbaryonic dark matter. His work on axions and neutralinos helped establish them as the leading dark matter candidates. His body of work in cosmology has been central to establishing the current Λ CDM paradigm.
With Edward Kolb, Turner brought together the fields of particle physics and cosmology and the “merger” of much of their research agendas. They did so through their scholarly contributions, founding of the Fermilab astrophysics group in 1983, training of graduate students and postdocs, and their national and international leadership. The monograph, The Early Universe, which they authored in 1990, has become the handbook for the field. Turner also led the National Academy study Quarks to the Cosmos that laid out the strategic vision for the field.
Turner served as the President of the American Physical Society in 2013 and as the Assistant Director for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences of the National Science Foundation from 2003 to 2006, where he successfully led both ALMA and Advanced LIGO through the National Science Board approval process. He has been in the leadership of the Aspen Center for Physics since 1983, serving as President from 1989 to 1994 and as Chairman of the Board from 2009 to 2012. Turner has served on the last two Astronomy Decadal Surveys and on many NASA, DOE, NSF and National Academy Sciences committees.
Turner was born in Los Angeles, CA; he received his B.S. from Caltech (1971) and his M.S. (1973) and Ph.D. (1978) from Stanford (all in physics). He holds an honorary D.Sc. (2005) from Michigan State University and was awarded a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Caltech in 2006. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His other honors include the Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, the Klopsted Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Heineman Prize (with Kolb) of the AAS and American Institute of Physics, the 2011 Darwin Lecture of the Royal Astronomical Society and 2013 Ryerson Lecture at UChicago.