Dr. Mario Livio, the head of the new Institute Science
Division at STSCI, joined the Institute in 1991
as head of the Archive Branch. Prior to coming to
the Institute, he completed his undergraduate studies
(majoring in both physics and mathematics) at the
Hebrew University in Jerusalem, his M.Sc. degree
(in theoretical particle physics) at the Weizmann
Institute, an his Ph.D. (in theoretical astrophysics)
at Tel-Aviv University. He was a professor of physics
in the physics department of the Technion-Israel
Institute of Technology from 1981 until 1991.
Mario came to his career in physics via a long
and winding path. As Mario himself writes:
"I was born in 1945 in Romania. When I was a
few months old, both my parents had to flee Romania
for political reasons, and I was left with my
grandparents until the age of 5. In 1950, most
Romanian Jews were pressured to leave, and I immigrated
with my grandparents to Israel. I served in the
obligatory military service for three years, and
continued to serve for 40 days each year in the
obligatory reserve military service, until I left
in 1991. I was a paramedic in a special field
hospital unit that could be parachuted, transported
by choppers, or by marine landing boats. It was
with this unit that I was in the 1967 ('Six Day')
war, the 1973 ('Yom Kippur') war and the 1982
war in Lebanon. In the Yom Kippur war, we were
the only medical unit that crossed the Suez Canal."
A love for astrophysics somehow emerged and persisted,
with a special interest in the accretion of mass
by black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs.
In 1999, Mario focused particularly on the topics
of supernova explosions and their use in cosmology
to determine the rate of expansion of the Universe,
on the formation of black holes and the possibility
to extract energy from them, on the formation of
planets in disks around young stars, and on the
emergence of intelligent life in the Universe.
Mario is a self-proclaimed 'art fanatic' who owns
many hundreds of art books. Recently, he combined
his passions for science and art in a popular book,
The Accelerating Universe, which has just appeared.
The book discusses the 'beauty' of fundamental theories
of the Universe.