William Irvine

Irvine is the author of more than 200 published papers, having worked in theoretical cosmology and in theoretical and observational studies of planetary atmospheres, and more recently using radio astronomy as a probe of interstellar and cometary chemistry. His accomplishments include formulating the Layzer-Irvine (cosmic energy) equation, the Hapke-Irvine description of light scattering from rough surfaces, and participation in the identification of some 13 new interstellar molecules and 2 new molecular species in comets. Irvine was recently President of the International Astronomical Union’s Commission 51, Bioastronomy, and he is currently a member of the Steering Committee of the IAU’s Division F, Planetary Systems and Bioastronomy. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology (Japan), Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica (Mexico); and is a past Chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.

Much of Irvine’s research in astrochemistry concerned organic molecules in space and in comets. Since such organic species include many molecules important in biochemistry and in prebiotic chemistry, this field is now considered to be part of astrobiology, the study of the origin and distribution of life in the universe. Following from this, Irvine currently is the co-chief editor of Springer’s Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, which is now in a second edition and is being regularly updated online.

Sample Publications:

“Local Irregularities in an Expanding Universe”, Irvine, W.M., Annals of Physics,   32, 322 (1965).

“Absorption Bands and Photon Optical Paths in a Nonconservative Scattering Atmosphere”, Irvine, W.M., Ap. J., 147, 1193 (1967).

“Monochromatic Phase Curves and Albedos for the Lunar Disk”, Lane, A. and Irvine, W.M., Astron. J., 78, 267 (1973).

“Thermal History, Chemical Composition, and Relationship of Comets to the Origin  of Life”, Irvine, W.M., Leschine, S.B., and Schloerb, F.P., Nature, 283, 748 (1980).

“Comets, Interstellar Molecules, and the Origin of Life”, Irvine, W.M. and Hjalmarson, Å., in Cosmochemistry and the  Origin of Life, ed. C. Ponnamperuma, D. Reidel, Holland, pp. 113-142 (1983).  Invited Review.

“A New Interstellar Polyatomic Molecule:  Detection of Propynal in the Cold Cloud TMC-1”, Irvine, W.M. et al., Ap. J.  (Lett.), 335, L89 (1988).

“Chemistry of the Cosmos”, Irvine, W.M., in Frontiers of  Life, ed. J. Tran Thanh Vân et al., Editions Frontières,  France, pp. 263-290 (1992).  Invited Review.

“Extraterrestrial Organic Matter: A Review”, Irvine, W.M., Origins Life Evol. Biosphere, 28, 365 (1998). Invited review.

“Molecules in Comets: An ISM-Solar System Connection?” Irvine, W.M. and Bergin, E.A., in Astrochemistry: From Molecular Clouds to Planetary Systems, ed. Y. C. Minh and E. van Dishoeck (IAU Symp. 197, Astron. Soc. Pacific), pp.447-460 (2000). Invited Review.

Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, ed. M. Gargaud, W. M. Irvine, et al., Springer,  (2011), 2nd edition, 2014.