Paper review: A primer on hierarchical galaxy formation: the semi-analytical approach

Mar. 31, 2021

This is THE first paper I will recommend for whoever is interesting in galaxy formation and evolution.

Currently, there are many ways to understand the galaxy formation and evolution process from fully hydrodynamical simulation to fully empirical statistical models. Both models at the end of this spectra are not appropriate for introducing this topic. In hydrodynamical simulation, we just put the most fundamental physic law in the computer and get the result. For the empirical model, we want to retain the statistical description to the real Universe, without any physical insight. Between these two extrema, we have semi-analytical modelling (SAM), which is to empirically model the individual physical process in galaxy formation and evolution. Then we need to put all these pieces together to get a general picture.

This paper is an introduction to the SAM, so it is suitable for one to start learning the topic of galaxy formation and evolution.


This review does not have many equations or quantitative description, so the reader is not required to handle too much mathematics. Nevertheless, one need some basic physical intuition to understand the underly process. For example,

With basic physical concepts in mind, it should be easy to read this paper.

Why is it good?


As I said, SAM starts from the basic physical process, so this paper also provides explanation to all the elements from a physical viewpoint.


This paper uses the most concise word to present the essence of underlying physical process.


Although this paper does not dig into the details of many scientific topic, it provides many classical reference to the important topic in the field.

Last word

This paper should be your first review to read in galaxy formation and evolution. With the general framework in mind, you can go to more advanced or bigger material. For example, Galaxy Formation and Evolution is a big book to which three masters in the field devoted twenty years.