Gerry Gilmore FRS is Professor of Experimental Philosophy at the Institute of Astronomy in the University of Cambridge. He leads the effort to understand the structure and origin of our Galaxy and his team has provided us our current understanding of how the masses of stars are distributed at birth.
Counting stars is one of the oldest of mankind's investigations of our Universe. Every culture developed mythological `explanations', struggling to break the `What came first?' conundrum. Astrological applications remain popular today. Scientific explanations eluded Newton, but progressed following the scientific application of the telescope by William Herschel, in Slough.
Understanding the distribution and motions of stars today remains a challenge. Remarkable technology - the GAIA spacecraft was launched last December - links with particle physics to challenge our understanding of when and where the chemical elements we are made of were created including the Milky Way.