Giovanni Fabrizio Bignami (born near Milan, 1944) contributed to the planning, design, relization or scientific exploitation of almost all the major space science missions in astronomy and high-energy astrophysics, starting with ESRO’s TD-1(1972) after his degree in Beppo Occhialini's group (Milan, 1968) and contnuing with ESA’S COS-B (1975).
Covering fields from physics to instrumentation to galactic and extragalactic astronomy, he has authored or co-authored more than three hundred professional papers, pioneering the search for new celestial objects using all astronomical channels, from ground and from space. He has taken an active part in the XMM/Newton mission, where he was P.I. from 1988 to 1998.
GFB frequently concentrated on neutron stars, most recently proposing them as a celestial laboratory for new physics.
For his discovery of "Geminga" he was awarded, together with J. Halpern, the 1993 "Bruno Rossi" Prize of the American Astronomical Society.
A professor of Astronomy at the University of Pavia, GFB is a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, of the Academia Europaea, of the International Astronautics Academy and has been made "Officer de l'Ordre National du Merit" of France. The Royal Society and COSPAR gave to GFB the 2002 Massey Award for space science, with J. Paul. In 2004 the Italian Ministry of Culture awarded to GFB its five-yearly Astronomy Prize.
From 1997 to 2002 GFB has served as Director of Science at the Italian Space Agency and has represented Italy at ESA’s Science Policy Committee.
Currently, GFB is Director of the Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements in Toulouse (France) and serves on CNES science advisory bodies.
He now chairs ESA’s Space Science Advisory Committee and for ESA GFB coordinated the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 space science plan.
GFB is a contributor to Nature and Science on a variety of topics, including history of science and scientists. A strong believer in presenting science to a wide audience, he also contributes to Italian, French and US magazines and Encyclopaedias, and has participated to TV series (for RAI and for ESA/Euronews). He has authored two space science documentaries, "Project 242" on human exploration of Mars, and "Bravo! BeppoSAX" on the Italian Space Agency mission dedicated to his mentor, G. Occhialini. The first biography of this great Italian scientist was written by GFB for the Memoirs of the Royal Society.
His recent books include“La storia nello spazio”, now in press by O.Jacob, Paris, and, as a keen student of languages, "Against the Donning of the Gown" (Unaluna, Milan, 2000). The latter is the first translation into English of a 301-line poem by Galileo Galilei, written circa 1590. The version by GFB is written in iambic pentameters, bound in Galileo's original structure of Dantesque tercets.