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Pierre Léna

Member of Académie des sciences (Paris)

Member since 1991 of Académie des sciences (Paris), Pierre Léna, born 1937 in Paris, is an astrophysicist, highly involved in science education issues. He is Emeritus Professor of astrophysics and physics at the Université Paris Diderot, where he accomplished most of his teaching career, doing his research as an associate researcher with Paris Observatory, where he developed and directed a large research group.

The scientific work of Pierre Léna is centered on infrared astronomy, a major branch of astronomy born ca.1960. With novel observations, he contributed to model the solar atmosphere and its temperature minimum. Adapting to infrared the speckle interferometry discovered by the French Antoine Labeyrie, he was first with his students to apply it to star formation and measure the size of dust cocoons around forming stars. This work led him to organize the European Very Large Telescope as an interferometer, again following Labeyrie’s ideas. This world’s most powerful instrument is now operating. He then worked on a new interferometer, connecting with optical fibers large telescopes on Mauna Kea (Hawaii).
Beginning 1984, he led a team first implementing adaptive optics on a telescope, a technique now worldwide adopted on giant instruments. He is the author of more than 100 scientific articles, author of several books on astrophysics, on education in science, popular books and television series.
He represented France at the governing Council of the European Southern Observatory (1986-1993) at the time of the VLT planning, directed the Graduate School of Astrophysics at Université Paris 7 (1976-1984 & 1992-1996) before becoming Director of the Ecole doctorale Astronomie d’Ile-de-France (1997-2003).
His interest in educational matters led him to become Président of the Institut national de recherche pédagogique (1991-1997) and to be an active member of the La main à la pâte (Inquiry & Hands On) action renovating science education in schools since 1996. He was Président of the Société française de physique in 1989. Between 2005 and 201, he has directed the Education Office of the French Académie des sciences. He pursues the work on science education at national, european and international scales and became in 2011 the global Coordinator of the Science Education Program of the InterAcademy Panel, international federation of science Academies.
Pierre Léna is a member of Academia Europeae and of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.