Daniel Joseph Bradley

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Dan Bradley
Born Daniel Joseph Bradley
(1928-01-18)18 January 1928
Derry, Northern Ireland
Died 7 February 2010(2010-02-07) (aged 82)[1]
Alma mater Royal Holloway, University of London
Children Donal Bradley[2]
Awards Cunningham Medal
Royal Medal
Young Medal and Prize
Scientific career
Institutions Trinity College, Dublin
Imperial College London
Queen's University, Belfast
Thesis A high resolution interference spectroscope (1961)
Doctoral advisor Samuel Tolansky
Doctoral students J. Roy Taylor[1][3]
Website imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/naturalsciences/physics/newssummary/news_26-2-2010-14-46-5

Daniel Joseph Bradley FRS FInstP MRIA[4][1] (18 January 1928 – 7 February 2010) was an Irish physicist, and Emeritus Professor of Optical Electronics, at Trinity College, Dublin.

Early life and education[edit]

Born on 18 January 1928, he was one of four surviving children of John and Margaret Bradley, Lecky Road, Derry. He left school to work as a telegraph boy but returned to education at St Columb's College. Having trained as a teacher at St Mary's College, Belfast, Northern Ireland, he qualified in 1947.

While teaching in a primary school in Derry he studied for a degree in mathematics as an external student of the University of London, and was awarded a degree in 1953.

Moving to London where he taught mathematics in a grammar school, he decided to register for an evening course at Birkbeck College. His first choice was mathematics but as he already had a degree in the subject the admissions staff suggested that he should study physics, which they said was "a bit like mathematics".

In 1957, after four years of part-time study, he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in physics by Birkbeck, achieving the highest marks in his final exams in the University of London overall.[5] He next joined Royal Holloway College as an assistant lecturer and simultaneously enrolled as a PhD student, working on Fabry–Pérot interferometer etalon-based high-resolution spectroscopy supervised by Samuel Tolansky, and received a PhD in 1961.[6]

Career and research[edit]

Bradley was a pioneer of laser physics, and his work on the development of ultra-fast pulsed lasers added a new and vitally important element to the capabilities of this new type of light source. In particular, working on dye lasers, he produced pulses of light as short as one picosecond – one picosecond is to a second as a second is to 31,800 years – and his work paved the way for the completely new field of non-linear optical interactions. In addition, he inspired a new generation of laser scientists in Ireland and the UK, many of whom are international leaders in their fields.

Appointed to a lectureship in the physics department at Imperial College London, he set up a research programme in UV solar spectroscopy using rocket technology to reach high altitudes.

In 1963 he began work in laser physics but returned to Royal Holloway College as a reader one year later. In 1966 he was appointed professor and head of department at Queen's University, Belfast.

There he quickly established a space research group of international standing to do high-resolution solar spectroscopy. He attracted significant funding from a variety of agencies, allowing him to build his department into one of the world's leading laser research centres, involving a total of 65 scientists. However, he left Belfast because of fears for his family's safety as political violence escalated in the early 1970s.[citation needed]

He returned in 1973 to Imperial College London to a chair in laser physics, and headed a group in optical physics, laser physics and space optics. He was head of the Physics department from 1976 to 1980 but he was frustrated by cutbacks and a rule governing the ratio of senior to junior positions, one consequence of which was that he was unable to maintain a long-established chair in optical design.

He was also critical of the college administration's handling of some departmental grant applications. He resigned in 1980 and moved to Dublin.[citation needed]

Among his many lasting contributions to laser research in the UK was the setting up of one of the world's leading research facilities for laser research, the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL).[citation needed]

Arriving at Trinity College, Dublin, he decided the time was ripe to move on from laser research and development into laser applications. In 1982, with Dr John Kelly, a chemist, and Dr David McConnell, a geneticist, he formed a team which won funding for a project using laser techniques to explore the structure of organic molecules like DNA and proteins.[citation needed]

Unfortunately, however, his work at Trinity was cut short by ill health and he retired in 1984. But his research on semiconductor lasers was carried on, and this work on developing widely tuneable lasers for optical communications systems continues.

In the course of a relatively short academic career he supervised over 60 PhD students,[citation needed] one of whom[who?] described his former mentor as an "inspiration" and a "great role-model for any researcher".[citation needed]

Awards and honours[edit]

A member of the Royal Irish Academy, he was Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College Dublin, and held fellowships of the Royal Society, Optical Society of America and Institute of Physics. . He received several awards in recognition of his work including:

Personal life[edit]

He married Winefride O'Connor and had five children: daughter Mairead and sons Sean, Donal Bradley,[2] Martin and Ronan.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Taylor, J. Roy (2017). "Daniel Joseph Bradley. 18 January 1928 — 7 February 2010". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2017.0012. ISSN 0080-4606. 
  2. ^ a b BRADLEY, Prof. Donal Donat Conor. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who. 2017 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.  closed access publication – behind paywall (subscription required)
  3. ^ Taylor, James Roy (1974). Studies of Tunable Picosecond Laser Pulses and Non-Linear Interactions. ethos.bl.uk (PhD thesis). Queen's University Belfast. OCLC 500576854. 
  4. ^ a b "BRADLEY, Daniel J. Prof : Death notice". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2017-08-23. 
  5. ^ "In Memoriam: Professor Daniel Bradley, laser scientist, 1928-2010". Osa.org. Retrieved 2017-08-23. 
  6. ^ Bradley, Daniel Joseph (1961). A high resolution interference spectroscope. Ethos.bl.uk (PhD thesis). University of London. Retrieved 2017-08-23. 
  7. ^ "Royal Medal". NNDb.com. Retrieved 6 December 2008.