Press Release


RA V. Ambartsumian Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO)
Press release 27.11.2019

Yervant TERZIAN (1939-2019)

Prof. Terzian, the David C. Duncan and the Tisch Distinguished University Professor in the Physical Sciences, Department of Astronomy, Cornell University, one of the prominent modern astronomers, known in the fields of physics of the interstellar medium, planetary nebulae, galaxies, radio astronomy, one of the ArAS Co-Presidents and the Chairman of the Research Council of ANSEF, passed away on 25 November.

Yervant Terzian was born on February 9, 1939, in Alexandria, Egypt. His father was an Armenian and his mother, a Greek; hence, having Armenian-Greek origin, Terzian is considered both as a great Armenian and Greek astronomer. He finished the Kalousdian Armenian School in Cairo, then studied at the American University also in Cairo, and in 1960, he received the B.Sc. from the Physics/Mathematics Department of this University. Then he moved to the USA and in 1963 he received his M.Sc. and later on, in 1965, his Ph.D. degrees in Astronomy from the Indiana University.

Since 1965, Terzian’s research and teaching is connected to the Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. In 1965-1967, he was a research associate at the Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico; in 1967-1972: Assistant Professor of Astronomy; in 1968-1974: Assistant Director of the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research of the same University; in 1972-1977: Associate Professor of Astronomy; in 1973-1974: Visiting Professor of Astronomy at the University of Montreal, Canada; in 1974 (Feb-July): Visiting Professor of Astronomy at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece; in 1974-1979: Graduate Faculty Representative, Astronomy and Space Sciences, Cornell University; and since 1977 he is Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University.


Prof. Terzian’s scientific fields are quite broad: from planetary nebulae (PNe) and pulsars to galaxy pairs and quasars. His studies have been carried out mainly in radio, however many papers are devoted to IR, optical, and UV observations as well. Among his largest studies and most important results one would mention:

In 1968, Terzian was appointed the Vice-Chairman, and in 1979, the Chairman of the Department of Astronomy at the Cornell University and headed this large (one of the largest and most important in the USA) department for 20 years! In 1979-80 and 1992-93 he was the Acting Director of the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research of the Cornell University.

Since 1986, Terzian is Professor in Graduate Field of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, and since 1991, in Field of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University. In 1988-1999 he was the Director of Pew Undergraduate Science Education Program, New York State Cluster of Colleges and Universities; in 1990-1999: James A. Weeks Professor of Physical Sciences, Cornell University. Since 1996, he is the Director of NASA’s New York State Space Grant Program (Cornell University) to enhance science education. In 1999-2000, he was a Visiting Professor, University of California, San Diego, and since 1999, David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences, Cornell University.


In 2002 Terzian was elected the Chairman of the US Consortium of Universities and Institutes to construct the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) giant radio telescope. Since 2001, he is the Chairman of the Research Council of the Armenian National Science and Education Fund (ANSEF).

Prof. Terzian has been the Associate Editor and the Scientific Editor of the Astrophysical Journal (1989-1999), one of the leading astronomical journals in the world. In 1982-1992 he was a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of The Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Since 2000, Terzian is a member of the Editorial Board of Astrofizika.

Prof. Terzian is member of a number of professional societies and organizations: International Astronomical Union (IAU, 1967), International Union of Radio Science, American Astronomical Society (AAS), Armenian Astronomical Society (ArAS, 2001), Hellenic Astronomical Society (HelAS), Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Society, Astronomical Society of New York, Historical Astronomy Division, Society for Scientific Exploration, American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fellow, 2001). In 1990, he was elected Foreign Member of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and in 2002, Co-President of the Armenian Astronomical Society (ArAS).


Terzian’s organizational activities have been rather large: he has been chairman, vice-chairman, or member of numerous committees and commissions of the IAU Working Groups, US National Academy of Sciences, New York Astronomical Society, NASA, NSF, etc. and Scientific Organizing Committees (SOC) of a number of international (including IAU) symposia and conferences. He was the Chairman of the IAU Working Groups on Planetary Nebulae (1985-1994) and on Astronomy from the Moon (1993-1999).

Since the beginning of the establishment of Viktor Ambartsumian International Science Prize (2009), Terzian was a member of its International Steering Committee and had his significant contribution in outstanding nominations, objective evaluation and selection of the Prize Winners. He also was the Chairman of the International Scientific-Advisory Committee of the Byurakan Observatory.

For his research achievements and teaching merits Prof. Terzian has been awarded numerous titles, degrees, awards, medals, and honors, among which are: Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from the University of Indiana, USA (1989), the Yerevan State University, Armenia (1994), the University of Thessaloniki, Greece (1997), and the Union College, New York, USA (1999); the Clark Distinguished Award for Excellence in Teaching from Cornell University (1984); the Distinguished Alumni Award from the American University in Cairo (2004); the Dicran H. Kabakjian Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science, North American Armenian Student Association, Boston, MA (1985); Gold Medal, Ministry of Science and Education, Armenia (2008); and Viktor Ambartsumian Medal, Armenian National Academy of Sciences (2008), Anania Shirakatsi medal (2012), NASA Life Achievements Award (2015), NASA highest award “For outstanding public service” medal (2018). In 1999, Cornell University established “Yervant Terzian underground scholarships”, and in 2009, “Yervant Terzian annual lectureship in Astronomy”.


Prof. Terzian is an author or co-author of 315 scientific publications and the editor of 7 books, including “Carl Sagan’s Universe” (1997). Out of these publications 164 are in refereed scientific journals, including 2 papers in Nature, where only outstanding results are being accepted.

We would like to mention two of the most important modern activities by Prof. Terzian that strongly support the development of the Armenian astronomy and science in general: his role in the creation and activities of ANSEF and ArAS.

The Armenian National Science and Education Fund (ANSEF) was established in 1999, in New York City, by a group of Armenian academic and other intellectuals, Yervant Terzian among them. ANSEF provides peer reviewed research awards to support scientific, technological and scholarly research. Since the beginning, ANSEF Research Council is chaired by Prof. Terzian. During 2001-2019, grants to about 450 projects have been awarded, USD 5000 to each. Altogether, more than 1000 senior and junior scientists and scholars have benefited from this support. In the field of astronomy and astrophysics, ANSEF has supported 51 projects involving more than 70 scientists from BAO and Yerevan State University.

The Armenian Astronomical Society (ArAS) also was established in 1999, however officially registered in 2001. Since the beginning, Prof. Terzian was one of the initiators and active members of ArAS. In 2002, during the first annual meeting, there was a decision to have three Co-Presidents; Prof. Terzian was elected one of them and since then is an ArAS Co-President. He strongly supports the existence and activities of the Society and plays an important role in contacts between astronomers living in Armenia and abroad. In 2004, Terzian established the ArAS Annual Prize for Young Astronomers and since then sponsors it. Fifteen young scientists have received this prize, which since 2009 is call “Yervant Terzian prize”. He also initiated in 2012 ArAS school astronomical lectures series.

Yervant Terzian was a great Armenian and a great personality. He devoted all his life to development of science, namely astronomy, organization of science and support to Armenian science, teaching young specialists, various educational programs and science promotion. His memory will forever remain in the hearts of thousands astronomers in the world, numerous Armenian scientists, and all his friends.

Sona Farmanyan


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