11 May 1924
Fowey, Cornwall, England
|Alma mater||King's College, Taunton
Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (Undergraduate)
Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge (PhD)
|Notable awards||Hughes Medal (1977)
Nobel Prize for Physics (1974)
Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1969)
Antony Hewish FRS (born 11 May 1924 in Fowey, Cornwall) is a British radio astronomer who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974 (together with fellow radio-astronomer Martin Ryle) for his work on the development of radio aperture synthesis and its role in the discovery of pulsars. He was also awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1969.
He attended King's College, Taunton. His undergraduate degree at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, was interrupted by war service at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and at the Telecommunications Research Establishment where he worked with Martin Ryle. Returning to Cambridge in 1946, Hewish completed his degree and immediately joined Ryle's research team at the Cavendish Laboratory, obtaining his PhD in 1952. Hewish made both practical and theoretical advances in the observation and exploitation of the apparent scintillations of radio sources due to their radiation impinging upon plasma. This led him to propose, and secure funding for, the construction of the Interplanetary Scintillation Array, a large array radio telescope at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRAO), Cambridge to conduct a high time-resolution radio survey of interplanetary scintillation.
In the course of this survey, one of his graduate students, Jocelyn Bell, discovered the radio source which was ultimately recognised as the first pulsar. The paper announcing the discovery had five authors, Hewish's name being listed first, Bell's second. Hewish and Martin Ryle were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974. The Nobel award to Ryle and Hewish without the inclusion of Bell as a co-recipient was controversial, and was roundly condemned by Hewish's fellow astronomer Fred Hoyle. It is now universally recognised that Jocelyn Bell's supervisor and head of department "won the Nobel prize for Physics for a discovery which was essentially hers. Some people call it the No-Bell, Nobel prize because they feel so strongly that Jocelyn Bell Burnell should have shared in the award." Despite this, however, following the award of the prize to Hewish and Ryle, in an interview with 'Cosmic Search' Bell was recorded as saying that "It has been suggested that I should have had a part in the Nobel Prize awarded to Tony Hewish for the discovery of pulsars. There are several comments that I would like to make on this: First, demarcation disputes between supervisor and student are always difficult, probably impossible to resolve. Secondly, it is the supervisor who has the final responsibility for the success or failure of the project. We hear of cases where a supervisor blames his student for a failure, but we know that it is largely the fault of the supervisor. It seems only fair to me that he should benefit from the successes, too. Thirdly, I believe it would demean Nobel Prizes if they were awarded to research students, except in very exceptional cases, and I do not believe this is one of them. Finally, I am not myself upset about it — after all, I am in good company, am I not!"
Hewish was professor of radio astronomy at the Cavendish Laboratory from 1971 to 1989, and head of the MRAO from 1982 to 1988. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1968. He developed an association with the Royal Institution in London when it was directed by Sir Lawrence Bragg. In 1965 he was invited to co-deliver the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture on Exploration of the Universe. He subsequently gave several Friday Evening Discourses and was made a Professor of the Royal Institution in 1977.
Awards and honours
Hewish has Honorary degrees from 6 universities including Manchester, Exeter and Cambridge, is a Foreign Member of the Belgian Royal Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Indian National Science Academy. His prizes include:
- Eddington Medal, Royal Astronomical Society (1969)
- Dellinger Gold Medal, International Union of Radio Science (1972)
- Albert A. Michelson Medal, Franklin Institute (1973, jointly with Jocelyn Bell Burnell)
- Nobel Prize for Physics (jointly) (1974)
- Hughes Medal, Royal Society (1977)
Hewish has argued that religion and science are complementary. In the foreword to Questions of Truth Hewish writes, "The ghostly presence of virtual particles defies rational common sense and is non-intuitive for those unacquainted with physics. Religious belief in God, and Christian belief ... may seem strange to common-sense thinking. But when the most elementary physical things behave in this way, we should be prepared to accept that the deepest aspects of our existence go beyond our common-sense understanding."
He married Marjorie Richards in 1950. They have a son.
- Hewish, A (1975). "Pulsars and High Density Physics.". Science (13 June 1975) 188 (4193): 1079–1083. Bibcode:1975Sci...188.1079H. doi:10.1126/science.188.4193.1079. PMID 17798425
Notes and references
- BBC Radio 4 – The Life Scientific, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Bbc.co.uk (25 October 2011). Retrieved on 27 July 2012.
- Cosmic Search Issue 1 (Volume 1 Number 1, January 1979). NAAPO. Retrieved on 7 June 2012.
- Autobiography. Nobelprize.org (11 May 1924). Retrieved on 27 July 2012.
- Who's Who 2009 p. 1072
- but according to a search of the Royal Institution website he was Professor of Astronomy during 1976–1981
- "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Retrieved 11 February 2011.
- "Franklin Laureate Database – Albert A. Michelson Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- J. C. Polkinghorne; John Polkinghorne; Nicholas Beale (16 January 2009). Questions of Truth: Fifty-One Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-664-23351-8. Retrieved 27 July 2012.