Linda Sparke is a native of London, England.
She watched the Apollo moonflights as a teenager,
and later the close-up pictures of the giant planets
and their satellites, from flyby missions. Amazed
by the accuracy with which humans on Earth could
calculate the flight paths of spacecraft, steering
them safely to an orbit millions of miles away,
she decided to study physics and astronomy. After
undergraduate training in applied mathematics at
Cambridge University, she went into astronomy as
a graduate student at the University of California
at Berkeley. Her interests focus on the many ways
that gravity can act to produce the observed patterns
of stars in galaxies. While gravity is supposed
to be a simple force, matters can get very complicated
in a galaxy of more than 100 billion stars, as well
as the "dark matter", which is of unknown nature,
but has more mass than all the stars put together.
This research led her naturally to investigations
of "polar ring" galaxies, of which NGC 4650A is
a prime example, and she is a leading expert in
interpreting the structures of these bizarre galaxies.
Prof. Sparke has held positions at the Institute
for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Institute of
Astronomy in Cambridge, and the Kapteyn Astronomical
Institute in Groningen (Netherlands), before joining
the faculty in Madison. Her hobbies include cooking,
quibbling, falling over in ballet class, and staring
blankly into the middle distance.