Press release: Chris Lintott appointed 39th Gresham Professor of Astronomy

Journalists sitting and writing in notepads

Professor Chris Lintott appointed 39th Gresham Professor of Astronomy, a post once held by Sir Christopher Wren

First lecture series: Discovering the Universe

Embargo: Immediate (8am, Thursday 22nd June)

Gresham College, London’s oldest Higher Education Institution, is delighted to announce the appointment of Chris Lintott as the 39th Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College.

Professor Lintott is a Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, and their Citizen Science Lead. He leads a citizen science project called Zooniverse, which has more than 2m registered global volunteers who take part in its projects. He is presenter of the BBC’s long-running ‘Sky at Night’, and writes frequently for the Times and the London Review of Books. He is also a lead editor for the prestigious Astrophysical Journal.

Lintott’s lectures will incorporate breaking news and new discoveries, and – thanks to the Zooniverse platform – will include opportunities for the audience to contribute to the science they’re hearing about.  

Professor Lintott’s research interests are in observational astrophysics. He founded and led the Galaxy Zoo project and was awarded the American Astronomical Society’s Tinsley award for research of an exceptionally creative character. He has also been involved in machine learning for identifying unusual objects, and a novel study of the properties of interstellar asteroids which are visiting the Solar system. Today his main activity is Principal Investigator for the Citizen Science platform Zooniverse.

Professor Chris Lintott said:  “I’m thrilled to be appointed Gresham Professor of Astronomy, following in the footsteps of Martin Rees, Colin Pillinger and my immediate predecessor, Katherine Blundell. I want to use the lectures to share what is becoming a golden age of astronomy with as many people as possible, both in person and online. Each lecture will include the latest observations from our fabulous new telescopes, and together we will explore how our understanding of the Universe is changing. Contemplating the cosmos is good for you – as I hope I can demonstrate!”

As Gresham Professor of Astronomy, Professor Chris Lintott will continue the 426-year-old tradition of delivering free lectures aimed at the public within the City of London and beyond. Gresham College live streams lectures online and delivers them to physical audiences in London, with over 8 million views of lectures online last year. Some 3000 past lectures are freely available to view on the College’s website. Among our famous Professors of Astronomy are: Sir Christopher Wren, Lord Martin Rees, Heather Couper, Colin Pillinger and John D Barrow. The outgoing professor is Professor Katherine Blundell OBE. 

Professor Martin Elliott, Provost of Gresham College, said: “I am delighted to welcome Professor Chris Lintott as the 39th Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, succeeding Professor Katherine Blundell. Chris fought off a brilliant field to get the job, demonstrating the wonderful communication skills which have made him such a popular presenter of The Sky at Night on the BBC.

“An established, widely published and prize-winning academic with a background in astrophysics, he is also committed to citizen science which he carries out through the Galaxy Zoo and Zooniverse projects. We are privileged to have him join us and I have no doubt our audiences are in for a treat.” 

In 2023-4 Professor Lintott will speak about Discovering the Universe:

This series tells the story of our cosmos through exploring six fundamental discoveries: that of galaxies beyond our own, via probes sent to reveal the remarkably diverse wonders of our Solar System from the fountains of Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus to Earth’s hellish twin, Venus, of the sudden appearance of interstellar visitors, the strange pulses received by the first radio telescopes and the twinkling of a star that misbehaved, and the revelation of detecting the oldest light of all. Together, these discoveries take us to the forefront of modern astronomy, and to the state-of-the-art in our understanding of the cosmos. 

  1. Island Universes: Discovering Galaxies Beyond the Milky Way 
    The discovery that we live in an ordinary galaxy, one of several hundred billion in the observable Universe, instigated a profound change in thinking about our place in the Universe. This lecture covers the Great Debate of the early twentieth century as new telescopes and new ways of observing the cosmos put our Milky Way in its place, and looks at how subsequent observations helped us understand how galaxies like our own formed and evolved. 
  2. The Marvels of the Solar System 
    Our exploration of the Solar System has revealed a remarkable diversity of landscapes, from the frozen deserts of Mars, which billions of years ago ran with water, to the hellish surface of Venus and the strange hydrocarbon seas of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. In our voyages to these places we have discovered what may be the most common home for life in the Universe - the ice-covered oceans found in many of Jupiter and Saturn's moons. 
  3. ‘Oumuamua: Our first Interstellar Visitor 
    In 2017, the Solar System was visited by an object named 'Oumuamua, which came from another star. The unusual properties of this first interstellar visitor led some to suggest it may be an alien spacecraft - but the truth is that its oddness is already teaching us lessons about how solar systems form. This lecture also considers the prospects of discovering more unusual objects in the Solar System, and what we might do about asteroids that threaten the Earth.
  4. Pulsars, Microwave Ovens and the Radio Sky
    There have been two major revolutions in how we look at the sky - the shift beyond the optical to other wavelengths, particularly the radio, and the increasing attention paid to how objects change over time. We start with the discovery of pulsars by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discover how a microwave oven bamboozled astronomers, and discuss the latest research on Fast Radio Bursts, mysterious events detected in galaxies billions of light-years away. 
  5. Is it Aliens? The Most Unusual Star In The Galaxy 
    Boyajian's star, a faint and unprepossessing presence in the constellation of Cygnus, attracted astronomers' attention when it began to flicker alarmingly. We will discuss explanations for its behaviour, from disintegrating comets to alien megastructures, and consider how modern astronomy hunts for the truly unusual objects in the Universe. For this task, the involvement of large numbers of volunteers - citizen scientists - is essential, for example via the Zooniverse platform, which invites you to participate in classifying galaxies and discovering planets. 
  6. First light: Revealing the Early Universe.

    The final lecture in the series returns to the theme of how insight is derived from observations, considering the cosmic microwave background. This oldest light in the Universe, emitted just 400,000 years after the Big Bang, contains the seeds of the structures we see around us, and tells us about conditions at the Universe's beginning. It will also consider how measurements of the Universe's expansion, made using the CMB, are leading to unexpected results, creating tension in modern cosmology.


Note to Editors: 

  1. Further information and photographs from Lucia Graves in the press office: 07799 738 439 or
  2. Press tickets are available for all lectures, please email Lucia to reserve a seat for any of our lectures.
  3. There are some 2,500 free lectures and videos available to watch now on our website.
  4. All our lectures next year are ticketed (free tickets) whether online or in-person and will open at the end of July; in-person booking opens a month ahead. 
  5. We have free block School and College bookings for in-person lectures; email if teachers want to book, or to order free paper programmes for your school.
  6. Gresham College’s public lectures in numbers: 8 million views of our lectures in 2021-22, some 47,000 registered audience live/ online attendances, of which 7,000 from schools. 
  7. Read more about Professor Chris Lintot

More about the College’s work: 
A series of six lectures a year is delivered by each of the College’s ten Professors, and usually three lectures by each of our five Visiting Professors. There are a further 40 or so individual lectures from a range of illustrious speakers selected from the worlds of academia, the arts, law, medicine, politics and industry.

Seats and online registration will be open once the new programme is published online late July; you can only book for in-person lectures a month ahead of each lecture, subscribe here to get notifications: