Matters of Gravity and the Topical Group in Gravitation

Beverly Berger, Oakland University

As ``Matters of Gravity'' celebrates its 10th year as the ``voice'' of gravitational physics, it also celebrates its 7th year as the official newsletter of the American Physical Society's Topical Group on Gravitation (TGG).

The first mention of the TGG actually appeared in the Spring 1994 issue of MOG with my open letter to the gravitational physics community stating that ``the time has come to create a TGG within the APS ... Such a group would allow us to define and promote our interests and enhance our visibility within the larger community of physicists. Construction of LIGO and the Grand Challenge Supercomputing Project on the two black hole problem are only two examples of the significant developments in our field that render such advocacy essential.'' The required 200 signatures to petition the APS to form the TGG were eventually obtained. The TGG came into existence when its formation was approved by the APS Council in April 1995.

All units (divisions, topical groups, forums) within the APS are supposed to have newsletters. It was natural, therefore, that the well-established, well-regarded, and reliably published MOG become the newsletter of the TGG. In fact, the one exception made to the ``plain vanilla'' bylaws of the TGG was to allow the editor of the newsletter to be someone other than the Secretary / Treasurer of the topical group. Thus Jorge Pullin was prevailed upon to continue his excellent stewardship of the newsletter. The first ``official'' TGG issue of MOG appeared in Fall 1995.

Since its beginnings in 1995, the TGG has been an unqualified success. Its membership has grown from its initial 200 or so to approximately 550. The TGG has increased the visibility of gravitational physics within physics by its active participation in the APS April Meetings, starting with the 1996 meeting. This has been achieved by the TGG's sponsorship of sessions of invited talks on recent developments in gravitational physics both on its own and jointly with the Divisions of Astrophysics, Particles and Fields, Computational Physics, and the Topical Group in Fundamental Constants and Precision Measurement. For the first time this past April, the TGG provided travel grants to encourage students to attend the April Meeting.

Many distinguished gravitational physicists have been elected to the TGG leadership. Past chairs include Kip Thorne, Abhay Ashtekar, Rai Weiss, and Cliff Will. Jim Isenberg was the first Secretary / Treasurer with Jim Bardeen, Sam Finn, Leonard Parker, Fred Raab, David Shoemaker, Bob Wald, Mac Keiser,Steve Carlip, Peter Saulson, John Friedman, and Bob Wald serving on the Executive Committee. The current officers are Bob Wald (Chair), Richard Price (Chair Elect), John Friedman (Vice Chair), and David Garfinkle (Secretary / Treasurer). The current executive committee consists of Ted Jacobson, Jennie Traschen, Eanna Flanagan, Gabriela Gonzalez, and Matt Choptuik.

In what we hope will be the very near future, the APS will award the first Einstein Prize in Gravitational Physics. This prize was developed due to the initiative of the TGG leadership. All APS prizes must be approved by the APS Council (including the name of the prize) and must have a substantial endowment. After some discussion over the naming of the prize, the APS Council authorized the TGG to conduct a fundraising campaign for the prize's endowment. This campaign is in progress.

The TGG has also exercised its right, as an APS unit, to name APS Fellows. Since the TGG formed, it has named approximately 10 fellows.

More information about the TGG may be found at its web page, and in the various issues of MOG.

Jorge Pullin