Memorial Prize in Astrophysics, University of Oxford

A new undergraduate prize in memory of Francesco Palla

  • £4,685

    pledged of £10,000

    • 82


    • 0


This project received pledges on Fri 09 Feb 2018
The Project

We are raising funding towards the creation of the Francesco Palla Memorial Prize in Astrophysics at Christ Church, University of Oxford. This prize aims to mark Francesco’s memory and academic legacy in the field of astrophysics. We have launched this crowdfunding campaign in connection with the Oxford Half Marathon, that we ran on Sunday 8th October 2017, in order to raise funding towards the creation of this prize, that we wish to fund in perpetuity.

Francesco Palla read physics at the Università La Sapienza, in Rome, where he specialised in astrophysics. Winning a European Space Agency study grant, he went on to work for two years with Professor Edwin Salpeter at Cornell University, Ithaca (NY). Professor Franco Pacini summoned him to the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Florence in 1980. Francesco pursued research in various different fields including star formation and evolution, the physical and chemical processes of interstellar matter, and cosmology: chemistry and primordial star formation. He was Director of the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri from 2005 to 2011. He was about to be appointed President of the European Astronomical Society when he died prematurely in 2016. In addition to his work as a scientist, he always devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to popularising astronomy in schools and with broader audiences, posthumously winning the Regione Toscana’s Giulio Preti Awards for the popularisation of science. Francesco was also Vice-President of the Classe di Discipline Umanistiche e Scientifiche at the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno di Firenze. Just before passing away in 2016, he finished a lovely book The little Prince’s Universe, updating the universe of Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince , which is now published in various languages with Sylvie Duvernoy’s drawings, making it even more beautiful.

Why Oxford? Why running the Oxford Half Marathon?

Who are we? We are Arianne, Francesco’s youngest daughter, and Adele, Francesco’s goddaughter who is completing her DPhil in Modern Languages at Christ Church. We simply initiated this project, which, however, could have not been developed without the support of many others, including the Department of Physics of the University of Oxford, that showed us immediate and warm enthusiasm and support, but also colleagues and friends all over the world who wish to mark Francesco’s important legacy and memory in a way that would also represent him. Supporting young talented students would have in fact surely been something he would have liked to do. Francesco’s legacy is not only scientific, but also valuable on a human level. For this reason we aim to create this prize together, as a community of friends, old and new, family, colleagues, students who found in Francesco an inspiration both on an academic as well as on a personal human level. We have run the Oxford Half Marathon as a symbolic run, specifically as a relay race.  This represents what we wish this prize will be, something we initially created, but whose life will go beyond us, passing the baton from one student to another, spreading Francesco’s legacy throughout the years to come. To do this it must include more than just us: we need you all in order to pass the baton for as many times as possible, all of you will be fundamental in making this relay race the most wonderful way to mark Francesco’s memory and legacy.

Where will your money go?

Our minimum target is the funding needed to support the first year of the Memorial Prize (i.e. £ 300). Our maximum target is the sum we need to create an endowment fund through the Christ Church Benefaction Account that will provide £ 300 every year, ensuring the funding of the Prize in perpetuity.

The prize will be awarded to an undergraduate student at the end of each academic year. The selection criteria will be created by Professor Roger Davies, the first holder of Philip Wetton Chair in Astrophysics and a Student of Christ Church, and now President of the European Astronomical Society, together with other members of staff of the Faculty of Physics of the University of Oxford.

Very Special Rewards. We know you want them!
  • £ 10: Personal thank you card by email. You will also get a picture of us reaching the end of the Oxford Half Marathon (if we make it!!).
  • £ 30: Personal thank you card with a print of an original illustration from Francesco Palla’s The Little Prince’s Universe made by Sylvie Duvernoy and written by Arianne and Adele.
  • £ 50: Print of an original illustration from Francesco Palla’s The Little Prince’s Universe made by Sylvie Duvernoy.
  • £ 70: Signed copy of Francesco Palla's The Little Prince's Universe .
  • The two most generous donors will receive the official t-shirts of the Memorial Prize with which we will run the Oxford Half Marathon with our autographs which are worth more than one by Usain Bolt.
We love social media! You can find updates about the project here:

– Facebook:

– Instagram: @francescopallamemorialprize

And check out our video and updates on this page!

Find out more about the Project, Oxford University, and the Oxford Half Marathon

Beautiful Christ Church and Oxford city centre from the air in 30 seconds

This year the Oxford Half Marathon will take place on 8th October: 21,097 Kilometers through Oxford’s glorious city centre!

For those of you fluent in Italian, here Francesco in wonderful Arcetri in Florence