As a graduate student, Akasofu was one of the first to understand that the northern aurora was actually an aurora of light surrounding the North Magnetic Pole. As part of UAF’s Centennial Celebration, UAF will be rolling out the university’s “Big Ideas” throughout the year.
Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu is a professor of phyics an director emeritus for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He was the director of UAF”s International Arctic Research Center since its establishment in 1999 until his retirement in 2007. Prior to that, he was director of the UAF’s Geophysical Institute for 13 years from 1986 to 1999. He helped establish the institute as a key research center in the Arctic, an played a critical role in the genesis of the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the modernization of the Poker Flat Research Range.
Akasofu came from Japan to UAF in 1958 as a graduate student to study the aurora under the guidance of Sydney Chapman, receiving his PhD in 1961. He has been a professor of geophysics since 1964. Akasofu has written more than 550 professional journal articles and authored and co-authored 10 books. Akasofu is an expert on the aurora borealis and the associated physics. His paper on the auroral substorm in 1964 is still cited often. He initiated a study of space weather forecasting with K. Hakamada well before this issue became crucial. The method they developed was refined by G. Fry and became the basis for the famous HAF model.
In 1976, the Royal Astronomy of London presented Akasofu with its Chapman Medal. In 1980, UAF named Akasofu a Distinguished Alumnus. In 1981 and again in 2002, he earned mention as one of the “1000 Most Cited Scientists.” in 1985, Dr. Akasofu became the first recipient of the Sydney Chapman Endowed Chair in Physical Sciences at UAF; and in 1987, the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges named him as one of its “Centennial Alumni.” He has also been honored with the Japan Academy of Sciences Award, and the John Adams Fleming Award of the American Geophysical Union.
In addition, he has received awards of appreciation for his efforts in support of international science activities from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 1993 and from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Japan in 1996. He was also the recipient of th eUniversity of Alaska Edith R. Bullock Prize for Excellence in 1997, and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001. He received the 1999 Alaskan of teh Year Denali Award, and the 2003 Aurora Award from the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. Also in 2003, the Emperor of Japan bestowed on him the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star.
Upon his retirement in 2007, the University of Alaska Board of Regents officially named the building that houses the International Arctic Research Center the “Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building: in recognition of “his tireless vision and dedicated service to the university, the state, and country in advancing arctic science.”