James Gunn is an astrophysicist who studies the origins and evolution of the universe and builds astronomical instruments.
He studies remote galaxies, from which light has been traveling for a major fraction of the age of the universe. Seeing these galaxies close to their origins allows a reconstruction of their early evolution. In addition to his theoretical contributions, Gunn has developed instrumentation based on sensitive electronic detectors, the advent of which has enormously increased the power of large telescopes. He has been involved in the conception and realization of a series of science-driven instruments and projects, such as the early CCD spectrographs and cameras of Palomar Observatory, the Wide Field/Planetary Camera of the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Project, an extensive, three-dimensional mapping of the universe that will determine the positions of more than 100 million celestial objects.
Gunn taught at the California Institute of Technology (1970-1980) and in 1980, became the Eugene Higgins Professor of Astronomy at Princeton University. He has served as project scientist for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey since the project's inception.
Gunn received a B.A. (1961) from Rice University and a Ph.D. (1966) from the California Institute of Technology.