Nicholas Zabriskie Scoville

Nicholas Scoville


Date of Birth
January 1, 1945

Nick Scoville was born in New York City and raised in Washington, DC, where his father was a prominent physical scientist and arms control advocate and his mother was a painter and sculptor. He attended Columbia University for both his undergraduate and graduate studies, completing his Ph.D. in 1972 with a dissertation on radio observations of massive molecular clouds. From 1975 to 1983 he was at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he rose to be associate director of the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory. There, working with Judith Young and others, he became known for pioneering radio, submillimeter, and infrared observations of interstellar gas, including giant molecular clouds. Since 1983 Scoville has been a professor at the California Institute of Technology (emeritus since 2016). He directed Caltech's Owens Valley Radio Observatory for ten years and headed the astronomy program for four. He is the founder of the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS) project, which he led for its first decade. COSMOS involves about 200 astronomers from many countries and makes use of most of the world's major telescopes in every wavelength band from radio to X-ray. The goals include the understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies, the evolution of active galactic nuclei, and the changing rate of star formation over time. Weak gravitational lensing is used to determine the large scale structure of the dark matter that makes up most of the Universe. The survey includes more than two million galaxies, essentially all those in a two square degree field out to a redshift of about 6. His portion of the work has included working with large teams on optical observations with the Hubble Space Telescope and radio observations of interstellar gas in distant galaxies with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). These observations have led to discoveries involving the evolution of the interstellar medium and new understanding of star formation when the Universe was substantially younger than it is now, as well as maps of the dark matter distribution at various epochs. He has also done extensive theoretical work on circumstellar mass-loss, molecular line emission, and ultra-luminous infrared galaxies and active galactic nuclei. His hobby is making abstract welded aluminum sculptures.

Personal Web Page

At the California Institute of Technology

Presentation of Bruce medal

See the ASP website.

Other awards

American Astronomical Society, Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, 2021.

National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Karl Jansky Lecturer, 2015.

University of Arizona, Aaronson Prize, 1993.


Caricature by BrⒸwn Astrophysics and Space Science269, 365 (1999).

Photo courtesy Prof. Scoville

Named after him

Minor Planet #25746 Nickscoville


Other References: Historical

“Scoville Becomes Director of Owens Valley Radio Observatory,” Physics Today 40 (2), 102 (1987).

Scoville, Nick and COSMOS Team, “Large Scale Structure and Galaxy Evolution in COSMOS,” in Macchetto, F. D., ed., The Impact of HST on European Astronomy (Springer, Dordrecht, 2010), pp. 247-54. [portion available online]

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Other References: Scientific

Scoville, N.Z. & P.M. Solomon, “Infrared Emission by Mineral Grains from Red Supergiants,” Bull. Am. Astron. Soc. 1, 361 (1969).

Scoville, N.Z. & P.M. Solomon, “Radiative Transfer, Excitation, and Cooling of Molecular Emission Lines (CO and CS),” Ap.J. 187, L67-L71 (1974).

Scoville, N.Z. & P.M. Solomon, “Molecular Clouds in the Galaxy,” Ap.J. 199, L105-L109 (1975).

Goldreich, Peter & Nick Scoville, “OH-IR stars. I. Physical Properties of Circumstellar Envelopes” Ap.J. 205, 144-54 (1976).

Elitzur, Moshe, Peter Goldreich, & Nick Scoville, “OH-IR Stars. II. A Model for the 1612 MHz Masers,” Ap.J. 205, 384-96 (1976).

Scoville, N.Z. & John Kwan, “Infrared Sources in Molecular Clouds,” Ap.J. 206, 718-27 (1976).

Young, Judith S. & Nick Scoville, “Extragalactic CO: Gas Distributions Which Follow the Light in IC 342 and NGC 6946,” Ap.J. 258, 467-89 (1982).

Scoville, Nick & Judith S. Young, “The Molecular Gas Distribution in M51,” Ap.J. 265, 148-65 (1983).

Sanders, D.B., P.M. Solomon, & N.Z. Scoville, “Giant Molecular Clouds in the Galaxy. I. The Axisymmetric Distribution of H2,” Ap.J. 276, 182-203 (1984).

Snell, Ronald L., N.Z. Scoville, D.B. Sanders, & Neal R. Erickson, “High-Velocity Molecular Jets,” Ap.J. 284, 176-93 (1984).

Sanders, D.B., N.Z. Scoville, & P.M. Solomon, “Giant Molecular Clouds in the Galaxy. II. Characteristics of Discrete Features,” Ap.J. 289, 373-87 (1985).

Scoville, N.Z., et al., “High-Resolution Mapping of Molecular Outflows in NGC 2071, W49, and NGC 7538,” Ap.J. 303, 416-32 (1986).

Scoville, N.Z. & D.B. Sanders, “H2 in the Galaxy,” in D.J. Hollenbach & H.A. Thronson, Jr., eds., Interstellar processes; Proceedings of the Symposium on Interstellar Processes, Held in Grand Teton National Park, July 1986 (D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1987), pp. 21-50.

Scoville, N.Z., Min Su Yun, D.P. Clemens, D.B. Sanders, & W.H. Waller, “Molecular Clouds and Cloud Cores in the Inner Galaxy,” Ap.J. Supp. 63, 821-915 (1987).

Sanders, D.B., et al., “Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies and the Origin of Quasars,” Ap.J. 325, 74-91 (1988).

Vogel, S.N., S.R. Kulkarni, & N.Z. Scoville, “Star Formation in Giant Molecular Associations Synchronized by a Spiral Density Wave,” Nature 334, 402-06 (1988).

Norman, Colin & Nick Scoville, “The Evolution of Starburst Galaxies to Active Galactic Nuclei,” Ap.J. 332, 124-34 (1988).

Young, J.S. & N.Z. Scoville, “Molecular Gas in Galaxies,” Ann. Revs. Astron. & Astrophys. 29, 581-625 (1991).

Scoville, N.Z., A.I. Sargent, D.B. Sanders, & B.T. Soifer, “Dust and Gas in the Core of Arp 220 (IC 4553), ”Ap.J. 366, L5-L9 (1991).

Sanders, D.B., N.Z. Scoville, & B.T. Soifer, “Molecular Gas in Luminous Infrared Galaxies,” Ap.J. 370, 158-71 (1991).

Scoville, N.Z., et al., “The Relational Database and Calibration Software for the Caltech Millimeter Array,” PASP 105, 1482-94 (1993).

Young, Judith S., et al., “The FCRAO Extragalactic CO Survey. I. The Data,” Ap.J.Supp. 98, 219-57 (1995).

Scoville, N.Z., M.S. Yun, & P.M. Bryant, “Arcsecond Imaging of CO Emission in the Nucleus of Arp 220,” Ap.J. 484, 702-19 (1997).

Frayer, D.T., et al., “Molecular Gas in the z = 2.8 Submillimeter Galaxy SMM 02399–0136,” Ap.J. 506,L7-L10 (1998).

Frayer, D.T. et al., “Molecular Gas in the z = 2.565 Submillimeter Galaxy SMM J14011+0252,” Ap.J. 514, L13-L16 (1999).

Sakamoto, K., S.K. Okumura, S. Ishizuki, & N.Z. Scoville, “Bar-driven Transport of Molecular Gas to Galactic Centers and Its Consequences,” Ap.J. 525, 691-701 (1999).

Scoville, N.Z., et al., “NICMOS Imaging of Infrared-Luminous Galaxies,” A.J. 119, 991-1061 (2000).

Calzetti, D., et al., “Star Formation in NGC 5194 (M51a): The Panchromatic View from GALEX to Spitzer,” Ap.J. 633, 871-93 (2005).

Massey, Richard, et al., “Dark Matter Maps Reveal Cosmic Scaffolding,“ Nature 445, 286-90 (2007).

Scoville, N., et al., “The Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS): Overview,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 1-8 (2007).

Hasinger, G., et al., “The XMM-Newton Wide-Field Survey in the COSMOS Field. I. Survey Description,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 29-37 (2007).

Scoville, N., et al., “COSMOS: Hubble Space Telescope Observations,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 38-45 (2007).

Schinnerer, E., et al., “The VLA-COSMOS Survey. II. Source Catalog of the Large Project,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 46-69 (2007).

Lilly, S.J., et al., “zCOSMOS: A Large VLT/VIMOS Redshift Survey Covering 0 < z < 3 in the cosmos field,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 70-85 (2007).

Sanders, D.B., et al., “S-COSMOS: The Spitzer Legacy Survey of the Hubble Space Telescope ACS 2 deg2 COSMOS Field I: Survey Strategy and First Analysis,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 86-98 (2007).

Capak, P., et al., “The First Release COSMOS Optical and Near-IR Data and Catalog,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 99-116 (2007).

Koekemoer, A.M., et al., “The COSMOS Survey: Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys Observations and Data Processing,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 196-202 (2007).

Leauthaud, Alexie, et al., “Weak Gravitational Lensing with COSMOS: Galaxy Selection and Shape Measurements,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 219-38 (2007).

Massey, Richard, et al., “COSMOS: Three-dimensional Weak Lensing and the Growth of Structure,” Ap.J. Supp. 172, 239-53 (2007).

Ilbert, O., et al., “COSMOS Photometric Redshifts with 30-Bands for 2-deg2,” Ap.J. 690, 1236-49 (2009).

Pannella, M., et al., “Star Formation and Dust Obscuration at z ≈ 2: Galaxies at the Dawn of Downsizing,” Ap.J. 698, L116-L120 (2009).

Elvis, Martin, et al., “The Chandra COSMOS Survey. I. Overview and Point Source Catalog,” Ap.J. Supp. 184, 158-71 (2009).

Lilly, Simon J., et al., “The zCOSMOS 10k-Bright Spectroscopic Sample,” Ap.J. Supp. 184, 218-29 (2009).

Ilbert, O, et al., “Galaxy Stellar Mass Assembly Between 0.2 < z < 2 from the s-cosmos survey,” Ap..J. 709, 644-63 (2010).

Brusa, M., et al., “The XMM-Newton Wide-field Survey in the COSMOS Field (XMM-COSMOS): Demography and Multiwavelength Properties of Obscured and Unobscured Luminous Active Galactic Nuclei,” Ap.J. 716, 348-69 (2010).

Peng, Ying-jie, et al., “Mass and Environment as Drivers of Galaxy Evolution in SDSS and zCOSMOS and the Origin of the Schechter Function,” Ap.J. 721, 193-221 (2010).

Pozzetti, L., et al., “zCOSMOS – 10k-Bright Spectroscopic Sample. The Bimodality in the Galaxy Stellar Mass Function: Exploring Its Evolution with Redshift,” Astron. & Astrophys 523, id A13 (2010).

Cisternas, Mauricio, et al., “The Bulk of the Black Hole Growth Since z ∼ 1 Occurs in a Secular Universe: No Major Merger-AGN Connection,” Ap.J. 726, id 57 (2011).

Kirkpatrick, J. Davy, et al., “The First Hundred Brown Dwarfs Discovered by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE),” Ap.J. Supp. 197, id 19 (2011).

Leauthaud, Alexie, et al., “New Constraints on the Evolution of the Stellar-to-Dark Matter Connection: A Combined Analysis of Galaxy-Galaxy Lensing, Clustering, and Stellar Mass Functions from z = 0.2 to z =1,” Ap.J. 744, id 159 (2012).

Ilbert, O, et al., “Mass Assembly in Quiescent and Star-forming Galaxies Since z ≃ 4 from UltraVISTA,” Astron. & Astrophys. 556, id A55 (2013).

Casey, Caitlin M., et al., “Near-infrared MOSFIRE Spectra of Dusty Star-forming Galaxies at 0.2 < z < 4,” Ap.J. 840, id 101 (2017).

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Other Works: Popularizations, History, Textbooks , etc.

Scoville, N. & J.S. Young, “Molecular clouds, star formation and galactic structure, ” Scientific American 250, 42-53 (April 1984).

Scoville, Nick, “Obituary: Philip Solomon, 1939-2008,” Bull. Am. Astron. Soc. 41, 579-81 (2009).