Eric J. Chaisson

Eric J. Chaisson
  • Harvard University; Smithsonian Institution
  • Academic Concentration: Astrophysics, Cosmology
  • Director's Fellow (2017-2018)
  • "Giving Back: Cosmology Applications for Human Society"

Eric Chaisson is a member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He affiliates with the Harvard College Observatory and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, teaches with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, and researches with the Smithsonian Institution, Washington. His scientific program addresses an interdisciplinary study of physical, biological, and cultural phenomena, seeking to understand the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars, planets, life, and society, thereby devising a unifying cosmic-evolutionary worldview of the Universe and our sense of place within it.

Dr. Chaisson has published nearly 200 papers, studies, and reviews in professional science and other journals. He is the author of 12 books, including Cosmic Dawn (1981), awarded the Phi Beta Kappa Prize, the American Institute of Physics Writing Award, and a National Book Award Nomination for distinguished science writing. Other books include two works on relativity, a textbook on cosmic evolution, and a co-authored volume outlining the scientific rationale for the United States’ national space policy. He is the lead author of Astronomy Today, now in its ninth edition and the most widely used college astronomy textbook in the nation. His most recent books are Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature (2001) and Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos (2006).

Dr. Chaisson is a member of numerous American and international scientific organizations, honor societies, and academic, public, and federal advisory committees. He is the recipient of numerous awards for astronomical discoveries and literary merit as well as scholarly prizes and fellowships from Phi Beta Kappa, the Sloan Foundation, the American Institute of Physics, and the National Academy of Sciences. In 1993 he was recognized by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) for his work on the Hubble Space Telescope, and in 2007 he was presented with the Kistler Award for increasing understanding of subjects shaping the future of humanity.

His faculty webpage is available online at:


  • Energy Budgets of Evolving Nations and Their Growing Cities

    Energies, 2022

    Eric J. Chaisson

    A new way is proposed to thermodynamically gauge the evolving complexity of nation-states and their growing cities. Energy rate density is a useful metric to track the evolution of energy budgets, which help facilitate how well or badly human society trends toward winning or losing. The fates of nations and their cities are unknown, their success is not assured. Those nations and cities with rising per-capita energy usage while developing and those that are nearly flat while already developed seem destined to endure; those with falling energy usage seem likely to fail. Globally, more energy, not less, and more energy rate density, too, will be needed in the 21st century. Conserving energy and efficiently using it are welcome since energy costs less when used less, but neither will likely help much to mitigate increasing energy demands. To survive, humanity nationally and internationally needs to culturally adapt to using more, clean, safe energy by embracing the Sun in an evolving Universe, where nations and their cities resemble galaxies and their stars as well as Earth and its life.

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