Antony Hewish

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Antony Hewish

Antony Hewish.jpeg
Born(1924-05-11)11 May 1924
Fowey, England
Died13 September 2021(2021-09-13) (aged 97)
NationalityUnited Kingdom
EducationKing's College, Taunton
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Known forPulsars
Marjorie Richards
(m. 1950)
Scientific career
FieldsRadio astronomy
ThesisThe fluctuations of galactic radio waves (1952)
Doctoral studentsJocelyn Bell Burnell[2]

Antony Hewish FRS FInstP[3] (11 May 1924 – 13 September 2021) was a British radio astronomer who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974 (together with fellow radio-astronomer Martin Ryle)[4] for his role in the discovery of pulsars. He was also awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1969.[5][6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Hewish attended King's College, Taunton.[8] 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.[9] Returning to Cambridge in 1946, Hewish completed his degree and immediately joined Ryle's research team at the Cavendish Laboratory.[8] For his PhD thesis, awarded 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.[10]

Career and research[edit]

Hewish proposed the construction of a large phased array radio telescope, which could be used to perform a survey at high time resolution, primarily for studying interplanetary scintillation.[8] In 1965 he secured funding to construct his design, the Interplanetary Scintillation Array, at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRAO) outside Cambridge.[8] It was completed in 1967. One of Hewish's PhD students, Jocelyn Bell (later known as Jocelyn Bell Burnell), helped to build the array and was assigned to analyse its output.[8] Bell soon discovered a radio source which was ultimately recognised as the first pulsar. The scientific paper announcing the discovery[11] had five authors, Hewish's name being listed first, Bell's second.

Hewish and Ryle were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974 for work on the development of radio aperture synthesis and for Hewish's decisive role in the discovery of pulsars. The exclusion of Bell from the Nobel prize was controversial (see Nobel prize controversies). Fellow Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle argued that Bell should have received a share of the prize.[12] Bell disagreed, stating "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".[13] Michael Rowan-Robinson later wrote that "Hewish was undoubtedly the major player in the work that led to the discovery, inventing the scintillation technique in 1952, leading the team that built the array and made the discovery, and providing the interpretation".[8]

Hewish was professor of radio astronomy in the Cavendish Laboratory from 1971 to 1989 and head of the MRAO from 1982 to 1988.[9] 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[7] and was made a Professor of the Royal Institution in 1977.[1][14] Hewish was a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. He was also a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.[15]

Awards and honours[edit]

Hewish had honorary degrees from six universities, including Manchester, Exeter and Cambridge, was a foreign member of the Belgian Royal Academy, American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Indian National Science Academy. The National Portrait Gallery holds multiple portraits of him in its permanent collection. [16] Other awards and honours include:[1]

Personal life[edit]

Hewish married Marjorie Elizabeth Catherine Richards in 1950. They had a son, a physicist, and a daughter, a language teacher.[7][18] Hewish died on 13 September 2021, aged 97.[9]

Religious views[edit]

Hewish 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."[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "HEWISH, Prof. Antony". Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Bell, Susan Jocelyn (1968). The Measurement of radio source diameters using a diffraction method. (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. doi:10.17863/CAM.4926. EThOS Free to read
  3. ^ a b "Professor Antony Hewish FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015.
  4. ^ István., Hargittai (2007) [2002]. The road to Stockholm : Nobel Prizes, science, and scientists. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198607854. OCLC 818659203.
  5. ^ Hewish, A (1975). "Pulsars and High Density Physics". Science (published 13 June 1975). 188 (4193): 1079–1083. Bibcode:1975Sci...188.1079H. doi:10.1126/science.188.4193.1079. PMID 17798425. S2CID 122436403.
  6. ^ "Antony Hewish". 2006. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  7. ^ a b c "Antony Hewish – Biographical". 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Rowan-Robinson, Michael (3 October 2021). "Antony Hewish obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "Professor Antony Hewish (1924 – 2021)". Gonville & Caius College. 16 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  10. ^ Hewish, Antony (1952). The Fluctuations of Galactic Radio Waves (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  11. ^ Hewish, A.; Bell, S. J.; Pilkington, J. D. H.; Scott, P. F. & Collins, R. A. (February 1968). "Observation of a Rapidly Pulsating Radio Source". Nature. 217 (5130): 709–713. Bibcode:1968Natur.217..709H. doi:10.1038/217709a0. S2CID 4277613. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  12. ^ "The Life Scientific, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell". BBC Radio 4. 25 October 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  13. ^ Bell Burnell, S. Jocelyn (January 1979). "Little Green Men, White Dwarfs or Pulsars?". Cosmic Search. 1 (1): 16. Bibcode:1979CosSe...1...16B. Archived from the original on 6 June 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  14. ^ but according to a search of the Royal Institution website he was Professor of Astronomy during 1976–1981
  15. ^ "Advisory Council". Campaign for Science and Engineering. Archived from the original on 28 August 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  16. ^ "Antony Hewish - Person - National Portrait Gallery". National Portrait Gallery, London. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  17. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database – Albert A. Michelson Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  18. ^ "The Papers of Professor Antony Hewish". Churchill Archives Centre. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  19. ^ Polkinghorne, John; Beale, Nicholas (19 January 2009). Questions of Truth: Fifty-one Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-61164-003-8. Retrieved 27 July 2012.

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