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Guido Münch

Prince of Asturias Award for Technical & Scientific Research 1989

Guido Münch Paniaga (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, 1921 - 2020), an astrophysicist specialized in galactic structures and spectroscopy, has worked in the leading American and European space observatories, participating in various space missions, in particular with infrared radiometers on board NASA’s Mariner, Viking and Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft. His research findings have been fundamental to Astrophysics.

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He transferred from the National School of Engineering at UNAM to its National School of Physical-Mathematical Sciences after the latter was instituted in 1935, graduating in Civil Engineering and Mathematics and subsequently obtaining his MSc in Mathematics in 1943. He subsequently obtained his PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago.

Professor Münch started working in the field of astrophysics with Nobel Prize winner R. Chandrasekhar. He has carried out research work in various fields, including the theory of stellar atmospheres, stellar spectroscopy, interstellar matter, emission nebulae, galactic structure and solar physics. His research on the planetary system has provided data of major interest.

Since 1946, Guido Münch has worked as an astronomer and professor at observatories in Mexico, Yerkes, Caletch, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (Heidelberg, GFR) and the Hispano-German Astronomical Centre in Almería. He has also taken part in NASA space missions involving the Mariner, Viking and Pioneer spacecraft. At the time of receiving the Award, Münch was Director of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg (Germany), a position he held until 1991. After leaving the Max Planck Institute, he carried out research at the Instituto Astrofísico de Canarias (IAC) until 1996.

Guido Münch has published more than one hundred and twenty books and articles on his speciality. Noteworthy among these are Interstellar Absorption Lines in Distant Stars (1957), The Theory of Model Stellar Model Atmospheres (1960), An Analysis of the Spectrum of Mars (1964), Galactic Structure and Interstellar Absorption Lines (1965), The Structure of the Atmosphere on the Major Planets (1969) and Helium Abundance on Jupiter (1973).

Holder of honorary degrees from Mexico’s National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics, member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1974. Professor Münch was a founder-member of the Third World Academy of Sciences (Trieste, 1982) and an honorary professor at the University of Heidelberg, in the Federal Republic of Germany.

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