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Chris Rapley

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Chris Rapley
Rapley in 1980
Born (1947-04-08) 8 April 1947 (age 77)
EducationKing Edward's School, Bath
Alma materJesus College, Oxford
University of Manchester
University College London
Occupation(s)Scientist, 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
SpouseNorma Khan

Christopher Graham Rapley CBE (born 8 April 1947) is a British scientist and scientific administrator. He is Professor of Climate Science at University College London, a member of the Academia Europaea, Chair of the European Science Foundation's European Space Sciences Committee, Patron of the Surrey Climate Commission, a member of the scientific advisory board of Scientists Warning, a member of the UK Clean Growth Fund Advisory Board, and a member of the UK Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. 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 and leader of UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory's (MSSL) Remote Sensing Group.

Life and career


Born on 8 April 1947,[1] 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]

Rapley married Norma Khan in 1970 and they have twin daughters, Emma Jane and Charlotte Anne.[1]

In the 1970s he was instrument scientist on two Skylark sounding rocket payloads flown from Woomera, Australia to study the Soft X-ray Diffuse Background, on four Aerobee flights from 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.[citation needed]

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.[4]

In 1994 whilst on a sabbatical at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory he contributed to the design of the Cassini RADAR instrument to study Saturn's moon, Titan. 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.[citation needed]

From 1995 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.[4]

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 a CBE in 2003. In 2007, he was appointed as Director of the Science Museum.[2]

From 2012 to 2016 he was a member, then chair, of the European Space Agency Director General's High-Level Science Policy Advisory Committee. In 2020 he was appointed Chair of the European Science Foundation's European Space Sciences Committee, and in 2022 was appointed as a member of the European Space Agency Director General's High Level Advisory Group on the Human and robotic Space Exploration for Europe. 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 and Chair of the advisory board to the UCL Climate Action Unit.[citation needed]



Rapley agreed to sit for Jon Edgar in Fittleworth during 2009 as part of the sculptor's environmental series of heads.[5]

Theatre and media


Rapley co-wrote a one-man play 2071 with playwright Duncan Macmillan, which he performed at London's Royal Court Theatre in November 2014, continuing to Hamburg and Brussels.[6] The play was published by John Murray in June 2015.[7] The book '2071 - The World We'll Leave Our Grandchildren' is available from John Murray. In 2019 Rapley was the Science Consultant on BBC1's ‘Climate Change – The Facts’ presented by Sir David Attenborough, and in 2020 on the BBC1 three-part series based around Greta Thunberg, 'Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World'.

Criticism of Museum Oil and Gas Sponsorship


In October 2021 Rapley resigned from the Science Museum Group's Scientific Advisory Board over the issue of gallery and exhibit sponsorship by oil and gas companies, citing; "The reality of the climate crisis, the need to abolish fossil fuels as quickly as possible, and analyses such as the recent Carbon Tracker Report which bring into question the commitment of the oil and gas companies to do so".[8][9][10][11]



In 2008 he was awarded the Edinburgh Science Medal for having made 'a significant contribution to the understanding and wellbeing of humanity'.[citation needed]


  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 d e Randerson, James (31 August 2007). "Profile: Chris Rapley, the Science Museum's new director". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  5. ^ Responses - Carvings and Claywork - Jon Edgar Sculpture 2003-2008. UK: Hesworth Press. 2008. ISBN 978-0-9558675-0-7.
  6. ^ McKie, Robin (1 November 2014). "Royal Court play 2071 looks at future of humankind after global warming". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  7. ^ Rapley, Chris; MacMillan, Duncan (18 June 2015). 2071: The World We’ll Leave Our Grandchildren. London: John Murray. ISBN 9781473622159. OCLC 912663462.
  8. ^ "Climate scientist stands down as adviser to London's Science Museum over fossil fuel sponsorship". The Art Newspaper - International art news and events. 4 October 2021. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  9. ^ William, Helen (2 October 2021). "Science Museum board member resigns over oil sponsorship". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  10. ^ "Professor resigns from Science Museum over its oil cash". theecologist.org. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  11. ^ "Science Museum board member resigns over oil sponsorship". belfasttelegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 19 November 2021 – via www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk.
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Jon Tucker
Director of the Science Museum
2007 – 2010
Succeeded by