David Southwood

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David Southwood
Southwood as President of the Royal Astronomical Society
88th President of the Royal Astronomical Society
In office
May 2012 – May 2014
Preceded byRoger Davies
Succeeded byMartin Barstow
Personal details
Born (1945-06-30) 30 June 1945 (age 78)
Torquay, Devon, UK
Alma materQueen Mary, University of London,
Imperial College London
Known forMagnetospheres of planets and moons
Director of Science at the European Space Agency
President of the Royal Astronomical Society
Scientific career
FieldsSpace science, robotic spacecraft
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Los Angeles,
Imperial College London,
European Space Agency,
Royal Astronomical Society

David John Southwood CBE (born 30 June 1945) is a British space scientist who holds the post of Senior Research Investigator at Imperial College London. He was the President of the Royal Astronomical Society from 2012–2014, and earlier served as the Director of Science and Robotic Exploration at the European Space Agency (2001–2011). Southwood's research interests have been in solar–terrestrial physics and planetary science, particularly magnetospheres. He built the magnetic field instrument[specify] for the Cassini Saturn orbiter.[not verified in body]

Early life and education[edit]

Southwood was born in Torquay, Devon, and attended Cockington County Primary School, then Torquay Boys' Grammar School.[citation needed] At school he specialized in languages. However, he studied mathematics for his first degree[1] at Queen Mary College, London,[2] graduating in 1966.[3] He obtained a PhD in physics from Imperial College London[2][3] with a thesis on the theory and data analysis of low-frequency waves in the Earth's space environment.[4]

His PhD work led to the first direct evidence for Kelvin-Helmholtz instability at the Earth's magnetopause.[5]

Research career[edit]

Southwood conducted post-doctoral research at the University of California, Los Angeles,[3] working on magnetometer data from the ATS-1 spacecraft.[6][failed verification] He then returned to Imperial College in 1971,[2][3] where he produced a theory of field-line resonances in the Earth's magnetosphere which now underpins most work on geomagnetic pulsations.[7][8][9]

In 1982 Southwood founded what became the Space and Atmospheric Physics Group and together with André Balogh decided to focus the group's experimental work on space magnetometers.[2] This led to Imperial's involvement in a series of missions including Ulysses, Mars 96, Cluster, Cassini, Rosetta, BepiColombo, and Solar Orbiter.[2] His magnetometer on the Cassini Saturn orbiter found the first signatures that led to the discovery of geysers on the moon Enceladus.[10]

During this time he also was a co-investigator on the magnetometer team led by Margaret G. Kivelson for the Galileo mission to Jupiter. The magnetic field measurements made by this magnetometer led to several discoveries concerning the magnetism of the Galilean moons and asteroid Gaspra.[11] From 1994 to 1997 Southwood was head of the Blackett Laboratory at Imperial College.[3]

European Space Agency[edit]

In 1997 Southwood retired as Head of Physics at Imperial College and became Head of Earth Observation Strategy at the European Space Agency (ESA).[3] There he developed the Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP), resulting in the Cryosat, GOCE, SMOS, and EarthCARE missions.[citation needed] In parallel he laid the basis for what became the GMES series of spacecraft.

Southwood's move to ESA had been intended as a short-term one, which would be over long before Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004.[2] But after a brief return to Imperial,[2] in May 2001 he became Director of Science at ESA.[3] The first launch under his directorship was the gamma-ray observatory Integral in October 2002. This was followed by three low-cost planetary missions: Smart-1 to the Moon (2003), Mars Express (2003), and Venus Express (2005).[citation needed] Mars Express and Venus Express each used a large amount of hardware in common with the Rosetta mission to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (launched 2004). On 14 January 2005 ESA's Huygens probe, which had detached from the Cassini mission to Saturn, landed successfully on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.[citation needed] Southwood later described the Huygens landing as "the highest point of all" from his ESA career.[2] Southwood had also led the team which developed the magnetometer on the main Cassini spacecraft.[2][3]

During 2003 ESA launched a largely British lander, Beagle 2, which was carried to Mars by the larger Mars Express spacecraft. All contact with Beagle 2 was lost before it reached the surface of Mars, and the project was considered a failure. ESA was heavily criticised for its management of the mission.[12] Southwood suffered public criticism in the UK for not supporting Beagle 2 enough, and in France for supporting it at all.[2][13] Following a report criticising the mission, Southwood admitted that "too high a level of risk was taken" but refused to criticise the leader of the project, Colin Pillinger.[14]

During Southwood's tenure, ESA expanded its cooperation with other space agencies.[2] ESA worked with China on the Double Star[2] and Chang’e missions,[citation needed] and with India on Chandrayaan-1.[15] Collaborative missions initiated with the US included the James Webb Space Telescope, where Southwood secured the flight of two predominantly European instruments (MIRI and NirSpec) and arranged a European launch on Ariane 5.[16]

In 2008, Southwood became ESA's first Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.[1][3] There he took over responsibility for the ExoMars programme. He drew up a new plan in which ExoMars would be split into two missions jointly undertaken with NASA, but the US withdrew support[17] and the ESA missions continue with a new collaboration with Roscosmos.[18] In 2009, two large astronomical spacecraft, Herschel and Planck, were launched.[2]

Royal Astronomical Society[edit]

Southwood retired from ESA during 2011 and returned to Imperial College.[1] The same year, he stood for election as President of the Royal Astronomical Society, where he had previously served as vice-president from 1989–1991.[19] He began his two-year tenure as president in May 2012, and served until May 2014 when he was succeeded by Martin Barstow.[20]


Southwood has received the following awards and prizes:


  1. ^ a b c "David Southwood". UK Space Agency. 9 March 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Profile: David Southwood". Astronomy & Geophysics. 53 (4): 4.10–4.11. 2012. Bibcode:2012A&G....53d..10.. doi:10.1111/j.1468-4004.2012.53410.x.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "David Southwood". European Space Agency. 4 March 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  4. ^ Southwood, D. J. (1968). "The hydromagnetic stability of the magnetospheric boundary". Planetary and Space Science. 16 (5): 587–605. Bibcode:1968P&SS...16..587S. doi:10.1016/0032-0633(68)90100-1.
  5. ^ Dungey, J. W.; Southwood, D. J. (1970). "Ultra Low Frequency Waves in the Magnetosphere". Space Science Reviews. 10 (5): 672. Bibcode:1970SSRv...10..672D. doi:10.1007/BF00171551. S2CID 123704816.
  6. ^ "Biaxial Fluxgate Magnetometer". NASA.
  7. ^ Southwood, D. J. (1973). "Behaviour of ULF waves and particles in the magnetosphere". Planetary and Space Science. 21 (1): 53–65. Bibcode:1973P&SS...21...53S. doi:10.1016/0032-0633(73)90019-6.
  8. ^ Southwood, D. J. (1974). "Some features of field line resonances in the magnetosphere". Planetary and Space Science. 22 (3): 483–491. Bibcode:1974P&SS...22..483S. doi:10.1016/0032-0633(74)90078-6.
  9. ^ Southwood, D. J. (1974). "Recent studies in micropulsation theory". Space Science Reviews. 16 (3): 413. Bibcode:1974SSRv...16..413S. doi:10.1007/BF00171566. S2CID 120352750.
  10. ^ Dougherty, M. K.; Khurana, K. K.; Neubauer, F. M.; Russell, C. T.; Saur, J.; Leisner, J. S.; Burton, M. E. (2006). "Identification of a Dynamic Atmosphere at Enceladus with the Cassini Magnetometer". Science. 311 (5766): 1406–9. Bibcode:2006Sci...311.1406D. doi:10.1126/science.1120985. PMID 16527966. S2CID 42050327.
  11. ^ "Margaret Kivelson". University of California, Los Angeles. 17 May 1997. Archived from the original on 6 August 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  12. ^ "Report scorns Beagle 2 decision". BBC News. 3 February 2005. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  13. ^ Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence (Report). Select Committee on Science and Technology. 5 July 2004.
  14. ^ Ghosh, Pallab (25 May 2004). "Q&A: Beagle 2 inquiry". BBC News. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  15. ^ Majumder, Sanjoy (21 October 2008). "India sets its sights on the Moon". BBC News. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  16. ^ "Europe's Contributions to the JWST Mission". 11 October 2009.
  17. ^ Whewell, Megan (15 February 2012). "Have Europe's Martian exploration plans been derailed by America?". National Space Centre. MSN News. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  18. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (20 March 2012). "Europe OKs Funding for Mars Mission with Russia". Space News. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
  19. ^ a b c d e "Honours and memberships". Imperial College London. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Elections 2014". Royal Astronomical Society. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  21. ^ "No. 62666". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 2019. p. B10.
  22. ^ "UK ESA astronaut Tim Peake presents Sir Arthur Clarke awards at UK Space Conference 2011". UK Space Agency. 5 July 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  23. ^ "Prof. John Harries and Prof. David Southwood awarded a NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal". Imperial College London. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  24. ^ "James B. Macelwane Medal, Past Recipients". American Geophysical Union. Retrieved 24 September 2012.

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