Chris Rapley

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Chris Rapley
Born08 April 1947
EducationBA in Physics, Jesus College, Oxford, 1969

MSc in Radio Astronomy, Manchester University, 1976

PhD in X-ray Astronomy, University College, London, 1976
OccupationScientist, NASA Solar Maximum Mission, 1975 and 1981

Lecturer, Department of Space and Climate Physics, University College London, 1981-1987
Professor, Remote Sensing Science at University College London, 1991-1997
Director, British Antarctic Survey, 1998-2007

Director, Science Museum, 2007-2010
Spouse(s)Norma Khan
ChildrenEmma Jane and Charlotte Anne

Christopher Graham Rapley CBE (born 8 April 1947[1]) is a British scientist. He is Professor of Climate Science at University College London, a Fellow of St Edmund's College Cambridge, a member of the Academia Europaea, Chair-elect of the European Science Foundation's European Space Sciences Committee, Patron of the Surrey Climate Commission, a member of the Science Museum’s Science Advisory Board, and member of the UK Clean Growth Fund Advisory Board. His previous posts include Director of the Science Museum (London), Director of the British Antarctic Survey, Chairman of the London Climate Change Partnership, President of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, Vice President of the European Science Foundation's European Polar Board, Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, and founder - leader of UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory's (MSSL) Remote Sensing Group. In the 1970s he was instrument scientist on two Skylark rocket payloads flown from Woomera, Australia to study the Soft X-ray Diffuse Background, on four Aerobee flights for White Sands, New Mexico in collaboration with the Lockheed Missile and Space Co's (LMSC) Palo Alto research laboratory to test a new design of solar X-ray spectrometer. He was instrument scientist for the Bent Crystal Spectrometer and Flat Crystal Spectrometer detector package flown on NASA’s Solar Maximum Mission as part of the X-Ray Polychromator provided by UCL MSSL, LMSC and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. In 1994 whilst on a sabbatical at NASA's Jet Propultion Laboratory he contributed to the design of the Cassini RADAR instrument. He led numerous ESA funded studies on the use of radar altimeters to study Earth’s polar ice, land and inland water, underpinning the ESA Earth Observation satellite series ERS-1, ERS-2, and Envisat. The MSSL group provided the on-board calibration sources for the UK Along-Track Scanning Radiometer flown on the same spacecraft. He was Chair of the International Council of Science - World Meteorological Organisation's International Planning Group for the International Polar Year 2007-2008 and a member of the IPY Steering Committee. From 2012-2016 he was a member, then Chair, of the European Space Agency Director General’s High-Level Science Policy Advisory Committee. His current interests are in the role of climate scientists in society, the communication of climate science and the need to better balance the discovery of new facts about the climate system and the delivery of benefit to society. He is Chair of the UCL Policy Commission on Communicating Climate Science. In 2014 Prof Rapley and the playwright Duncan Macmillan wrote the acclaimed play 2071 which Prof Rapley performed in 2014/15 at the Royal Court Theatre and in Hamburg and Brussels. The book is available from John Murray. More recently Prof Rapley was the Science Consultant on BBC1’s ‘Climate Change – The Facts’ presented by Sir David Attenborough. He has recently been appointed as the science advisor on a BBC1 four-part series on the Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg. In 2003 Prof Rapley was appointed CBE by Her Majesty the Queen. In 2008 he was awarded the Edinburgh Science Medal for having made 'a significant contribution to the understanding and wellbeing of humanity'

Life and career[edit]

Born on 8 April 1947, Rapley was educated at King Edward's School, Bath, Jesus College, Oxford (obtaining a BA in Physics in 1969), Manchester University (obtaining a MSc in Radio Astronomy in 1976) and University College, London (obtaining a PhD in X-ray Astronomy in 1976).[2][3][4]

In 1970, Rapley was married to Norma Khan and have twin daughters, Emma Jane and Charlotte Anne.[1]

Between 1975 and 1981, Rapley was a scientist on NASA's Solar Maximum Mission, and was then a lecturer at the Department of Space and Climate Physics of University College London from 1981 to 1987.[4] He was professor of Remote Sensing Science at University College London from 1991 to 1997, during which time (1994 to 1997) he was Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Bisophere Programme, heading up the Secretariat hosted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. He was Director of the British Antarctic Survey from 1998 to 2007.[2][3] During his time as Director, he helped Al Gore with the "Live Earth" concert (7 July 2007) by arranging for the Rothera Research Station's in-house band, Nunatak, to perform in Antarctica as part of the event.[4]

Rapley became a Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge in 1999. He was awarded the CBE in 2003. In 2007, he was appointed as Director of the Science Museum.[2]


Rapley co-wrote a one-man play 2071 with playwright Duncan Macmillan, which he performed at London's Royal Court Theatre in November 2014.[5] The play was published by John Murray in June 2015.[6]


Rapley agreed to sit for Jon Edgar in Fittleworth during 2009 as part of the sculptor's environmental series[7] of heads.


Prior to the 2015 general election, he endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Birthdays". The Guardian. 8 April 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Rapley, Prof. Christopher Graham". Who's Who 2009. Oxford University Press. December 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  3. ^ a b "New Director of Science Museum". Jesus College, Oxford. 23 July 2007. Archived from the original on 5 October 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Randerson, James (31 August 2007). "Profile: Chris Rapley, the Science Museum's new director". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  5. ^ McKie, Robin (1 November 2014). "Royal Court play 2071 looks at future of humankind after global warming". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  6. ^ Rapley, Chris; MacMillan, Duncan (18 June 2015). 2071: The World We’ll Leave Our Grandchildren. London: John Murray. ISBN 9781473622159. OCLC 912663462.
  7. ^ Responses - Carvings and Claywork - Jon Edgar Sculpture 2003-2008. UK: Hesworth Press. 2008. ISBN 978-0-9558675-0-7.
  8. ^ Elgot, Jessica (24 April 2015). "Celebrities sign statement of support for Caroline Lucas – but not the Greens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 July 2015.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Jon Tucker
Director of the Science Museum
2007 – 2010
Succeeded by
Ian Blatchford