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Martin Rees

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The Lord Rees of Ludlow
Official portrait, 2019
60th President of the Royal Society
In office
Preceded byThe Lord May of Oxford
Succeeded byPaul Nurse
78th President of the Royal Astronomical Society
In office
Preceded byKen Pounds
Succeeded byCarole Jordan
39th Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
In office
Preceded byAmartya Sen
Succeeded bySir Gregory Winter
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
6 September 2005
Life Peerage
Personal details
Born (1942-06-23) 23 June 1942 (age 81)
York, England
Political partyNone (crossbencher)
Dame Caroline Humphrey, Lady Rees
(m. 1986)
EducationShrewsbury School[1]
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Known forCosmic microwave background radiation, quasars
Astronomer Royal
President of Royal Society
AwardsDannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics (1984)
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1987)
Balzan Prize (1989)
Bower Award (1998)
Gruber Prize in Cosmology (2001)
Albert Einstein World Award of Science (2003)
Michael Faraday Prize (2004)
Crafoord Prize (2005)
Order of Merit (2007)
Templeton Prize (2011)
Isaac Newton Medal (2012)
Dalton Medal (2012)
HonFREng[2] (2007)
Nierenberg Prize (2015)
Fritz Zwicky Prize (2020)
Copley Medal (2023)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
University of Sussex
ThesisPhysical processes in radio sources and inter-galactic medium (1967)
Doctoral advisorDennis Sciama[3]
Doctoral students

Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, OM, FRS, HonFREng, FMedSci, FRAS, HonFInstP[10][2] (born 23 June 1942) is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist.[11] He is the fifteenth Astronomer Royal, appointed in 1995,[12][13] and was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 2004 to 2012 and President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.[14][15][16][17][18][19]

Education and early life[edit]

Rees was born on 23 June 1942 in York, England.[1][20] After a peripatetic life during the war his parents, both teachers, settled with Rees, an only child, in a rural part of Shropshire near the border with Wales. There, his parents founded Bedstone College, a boarding school based on progressive educational concepts.[21] He was educated at Bedstone College, then from the age of 13 at Shrewsbury School. He studied for the mathematical tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge,[1] graduating with first class honours. He then undertook post-graduate research at Cambridge and completed a PhD supervised by Dennis Sciama in 1967.[3][22][23] Rees' post-graduate work in astrophysics in the mid-1960s coincided with an explosion of new discoveries, with breakthroughs ranging from confirmation of the Big Bang, the discovery of neutron stars and black holes, and a host of other revelations.[21]

Career and research[edit]

After holding postdoctoral research positions in the United Kingdom and the United States, he was a professor at Sussex University, during 1972–1973. He later moved to Cambridge, where he was the Plumian Professor at the University of Cambridge until 1991, and the director of the Institute of Astronomy.

He was professor of astronomy at Gresham College, London, in 1975 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1979. From 1992 to 2003, he was Royal Society Research Professor, and from 2003 Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, during 2004–2012. He is an Honorary Fellow of Darwin College,[24] King's College,[25] Clare Hall,[26] Robinson College and Jesus College, Cambridge.[27]

Rees is the author of more than 500 research papers,[14] and he has made contributions to the origin of cosmic microwave background radiation, as well as to galaxy clustering and formation. His studies of the distribution of quasars led to final disproof of steady state theory.[14]

He was one of the first to propose that enormous black holes power quasars,[28] and that superluminal astronomical observations can be explained as an optical illusion caused by an object moving partly in the direction of the observer.[29]

Since the 1990s, Rees has worked on gamma-ray bursts, especially in collaboration with Péter Mészáros,[30] and on how the "cosmic dark ages" ended when the first stars formed. Since the 1970s he has been interested in anthropic reasoning, and the possibility that our visible universe is part of a vaster "multiverse".[31][32]

Rees is an author of books on astronomy and science intended for the lay public and gives many public lectures and broadcasts. In 2010 he was invited to deliver the Reith Lectures for the BBC,[33] now published as From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons. Rees thinks the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is worthwhile and has chaired the advisory board for the "Breakthrough Listen" project, a programme of SETI investigations funded by the Russian/US investor Yuri Milner.[34]

In addition to expansion of his scientific interests, Rees has written and spoken extensively about the problems and challenges of the 21st century, and interfaces between science, ethics, and politics.[35][36][37][38] He is a member of the Board of the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton and the Oxford Martin School. He co-founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk[39] and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute.[40] He has formerly been a Trustee of the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Gates Cambridge Trust and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

In 2007, he delivered the Gifford Lectures on 21st Century Science: Cosmic Perspective and Terrestrial Challenges at the University of St Andrews.[41]

In August 2014, Rees was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.[42]

In 2015, he was co-author of the report that launched the Global Apollo Programme, which calls for developed nations to commit to spending 0.02% of their GDP for 10 years, to fund coordinated research to make carbon-free baseload electricity less costly than electricity from coal by the year 2025.[43]

His doctoral students have included Roger Blandford,[3][4] Craig Hogan,[5][6] Nick Kaiser[44] Priyamvada Natarajan,[7] and James E. Pringle.

To mark the 300th anniversary of the Board of Longitude in 2014, he instigated a programme of new challenge prizes of £5-10m under the name 'Longitude Prize 2014', which are administered by Nesta and for which he chairs the advisory board. The themes of the first two prizes are the reduction of inappropriate antibiotic use, and enhancing the safety and independence of dementia sufferers. The Longitude Prize on Dementia was recently announced in 2022.

In his general writings and in the House of Lords his focus has been on the uses and abuses of advanced technology and on issues such as assisted dying, preservation of dark skies, and reforms to broaden the post-16 and undergraduate curricula in the UK.[45] He is also a current member of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.[46]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Cosmic Coincidences: Dark Matter, Mankind, and Anthropic Cosmology (co-author John Gribbin), 1989, Bantam; ISBN 0-553-34740-3
  • New Perspectives in Astrophysical Cosmology, 1995; ISBN 0-521-64544-1
  • Gravity's Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe, 1995; ISBN 0-7167-6029-0, 2nd edition 2009, ISBN 0-521-71793-0
  • Before the Beginning – Our Universe and Others, 1997; ISBN 0-7382-0033-6
  • Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, 1999; ISBN 0-297-84297-8
  • Our Cosmic Habitat, 2001; ISBN 0-691-11477-3
  • Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century—On Earth and Beyond (UK title: Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-first Century?), 2003; ISBN 0-465-06862-6
  • What We Still Don't Know ISBN 978-0-7139-9821-4 yet to be published.
  • From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons, 2011; ISBN 978-1-84668-503-3
  • On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, October 2018, Princeton University Press; ISBN 978-0-691-18044-1
  • Rees, Martin (September 2020). "Our place in the universe". Scientific American. 323 (3): 56–62. (Online version is titled "How astronomers revolutionized our view of the cosmos".)
  • The End of Astronauts (co-author Donald Goldsmith), 2022, Harvard University Press ISBN 9780674257726
  • If Science is to Save us, 2022, Polity Press ISBN 9781509554201
  • Rees, M.,"Cosmology and High Energy Astrophysics: A 50 year Perspective on Personality, Progress, and Prospects", Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, vol. 60:1–30, 2022.

Honours and awards[edit]

He has been president of the Royal Astronomical Society (1992–94) and the British Science Association (1995–96), and was a Member of Council of the Royal Institution of Great Britain until 2010. Rees has received honorary degrees from a number of universities including Hull, Sussex, Uppsala, Toronto, Durham, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Melbourne and Sydney. He belongs to several foreign academies, including the US National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences,[47] the Science Academy of Turkey[48] and the Japan Academy. He became president of the Royal Society on 1 December 2005[49][50] and continued until the end of the Society's 350th Anniversary Celebrations in 2010. In 2011, he was awarded the Templeton Prize.[51] In 2005, Rees was elevated to a life peerage, sitting as a crossbencher in the House of Lords as Baron Rees of Ludlow, of Ludlow in the County of Shropshire.[52][53] In 2005, he was awarded the Crafoord Prize.[54] Other awards and honours include:

The Asteroid 4587 Rees and the Sir Martin Rees Academic Scholarship at Shrewsbury International School are named in his honour.

In June 2022, to celebrate his 80th birthday, Rees was the subject of the BBC programme The Sky at Night, in conversation with Professor Chris Lintott.[69]

Personal life[edit]

Rees married the anthropologist Caroline Humphrey in 1986.[1] He is an atheist but has criticized militant atheists for being too hostile to religion.[70][71][72] Rees is a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, but has no party affiliation when sitting in the House of Lords.[73][74]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Anon (2017) "REES OF LUDLOW". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.32152 (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d "List of Fellows". raeng.org.uk. Archived from the original on 8 June 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Martin Rees at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ a b Blandford, Roger David (1973). Electrodynamics and astrophysical applications of strong waves. lib.cam.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 500386171. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.450028.
  5. ^ a b Hogan, Craig James (1980). Pre galactic history (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.258089.
  6. ^ a b Hogan, Craig James. "Curriculum vitae" (PDF). Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b "CURRICULUM VITAE: Priyamvada Natarajan". Yale CampusPress. Yale University. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  8. ^ "Martin Rees – the Mathematics Genealogy Project".
  9. ^ "Curriculum Vitae – Nicholas Kaiser" (PDF). ifa.hawaii.edu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 February 2005. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  10. ^ Anon (2015). "The Lord Rees of Ludlow OM Kt HonFREng FRS". royalsociety. Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 11 November 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2016.

  11. ^ Rees, Martin J. (18 August 2022). "Cosmology and High-Energy Astrophysics: A 50-Year Perspective on Personalities, Progress, and Prospects". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 60 (1): 1–30. Bibcode:2022ARA&A..60....1R. doi:10.1146/annurev-astro-111021-084639. ISSN 0066-4146. S2CID 248066390. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  12. ^ "Portraits of Astronomers Royal". rmg.co.uk. Royal Museums Greenwich. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  13. ^ "Astronomer Royal". The British Monarchy. Royal Household. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Martin Rees publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  15. ^ Martin J. Rees at Library of Congress, with 23 library catalogue records
  16. ^ "2005 talk: Is this our final century?". ted.com. accessed 31 August 2014
  17. ^ "Interviews with Charlie Rose, 2003 and 2008". charlierose.com. Archived from the original on 28 January 2010. accessed 31 August 2014
  18. ^ Anon (2010). "New Statesman Interviews Martin Rees". newstatesman.com. New Statesman. accessed 31 August 2014
  19. ^ Talk by Martin Rees, March 2017 on YouTube
  20. ^ GRO Register of Births: SEP 1942 9c 1465 YORK – Martin J. Rees, mmn=Bett
  21. ^ a b "Templeton Prize Winners – Discover Laureates From 1973 to Today". Templeton Prize.
  22. ^ Rees, Martin (1967). Physical Processes in Radio Sources and the Intergalactic Medium. copac.jisc.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  23. ^ "Inventory: Martin Rees". Financial Times. 2014. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 31 August 2014.(subscription required)
  24. ^ "Master & fellows". Darwin College Cambridge. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Honorary Fellows". www.kings.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Honorary Fellow | Clare Hall". www.clarehall.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  27. ^ "Honorary and St Radegund Fellows". Jesus College Cambridge. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  28. ^ Rees, M.J. (1984). "Black Hole Models for Active Galactic Nuclei". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 22: 471–506. Bibcode:1984ARA&A..22..471R. doi:10.1146/annurev.aa.22.090184.002351.
  29. ^ Rees, M.J. (1966). "Appearance of Relativistically Expanding Radio Sources". Nature. 211 (5048): 468–70. Bibcode:1966Natur.211..468R. doi:10.1038/211468a0. S2CID 41065207.
  30. ^ Meszaros, P.; Rees, M. J. (1992). "Tidal heating and mass loss in neutron star binaries – Implications for gamma-ray burst models". Astrophysical Journal. 397 (10): 570. Bibcode:1992ApJ...397..570M. doi:10.1086/171813.
  31. ^ Carr, B. J.; Rees, M. J. (1979). "The anthropic principle and the structure of the physical world". Nature. 278 (5705): 605–612. Bibcode:1979Natur.278..605C. doi:10.1038/278605a0. S2CID 4363262.
  32. ^ Martin J. Rees (1997). Before the Beginning: Our Universe and Others. Perseus Books. ISBN 978-0-7382-0033-0.
  33. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – The Reith Lectures, Martin Rees – Scientific Horizons, The Scientific Citizen". BBC. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  34. ^ Interview with Paul Broks Archived 23 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Prospectmagazine.co.uk; accessed 31 August 2014.
  35. ^ "Martin Rees Biography and Interview". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  36. ^ Rees, Martin (9 June 2006). "Dark materials". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  37. ^ Podcast of Lecture "The World in 2050", given at the James Martin 21st Century School, 21school.ox.ac.uk, February 2009.
  38. ^ Rees, Martin (23 May 2015). "Astronomer Royal Martin Rees: How soon will robots take over the world?". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  39. ^ Lewsey, Fred (25 November 2012). "Humanity's last invention and our uncertain future". Research News. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  40. ^ Who We Are, Future of Life Institute, 2014, archived from the original on 7 May 2014, retrieved 7 May 2014
  41. ^ "The St Andrews Gifford Lectures". st-andrews.ac.uk. University of St Andrews.
  42. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  43. ^ Carrington, Damian. "Global Apollo programme seeks to make clean energy cheaper than coal". The Guardian. No. 2 June 2015. Guardian News Media. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  44. ^ "Nick Kaiser | Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics". higgs.ph.ed.ac.uk. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  45. ^ https://members.parliament.uk/member/3751/contributions
  46. ^ https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/193/science-and-technology-committee-lords/membership/
  47. ^ "M.J. Rees". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 14 February 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  48. ^ "Foreign Honorary Members". Bilim Akademisi. Archived from the original on 6 January 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  49. ^ "Rees tipped to head science body". BBC News. 29 March 2005. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  50. ^ Martin Rees nominated for presidency of the Royal Society Archived 1 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, royalsoc.ac.uk, 29 March 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  51. ^ Sample, Ian; correspondent, science (6 April 2011). "Martin Rees wins controversial £1m Templeton prize". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  52. ^ "State: Crown Office". The London Gazette. No. 57753. 9 September 2005. p. 11653. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  53. ^ Sir Martin Rees appointed to the House of Lords Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, admin.cam.ac.uk, 1 August 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  54. ^ Professor Sir Martin Rees wins Crafoord Prize Archived 29 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine, admin.cam.ac.uk, 10 February 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  55. ^ "Martin John Rees". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. 7 August 2023.
  56. ^ "Martin J. Rees". www.nasonline.org.
  57. ^ "No. 52935". The London Gazette. 29 May 1992. p. 9177.
  58. ^ "APS Member History".
  59. ^ "Honorary doctorates – Uppsala University, Sweden". www.uu.se. 9 June 2023.
  60. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  61. ^ "Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2003". Archived from the original on 7 June 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  62. ^ "No. 57753". The London Gazette. 9 September 2005. p. 11653.
  63. ^ "No. 58379". The London Gazette. 29 June 2007. p. 9395.
  64. ^ Cressey, Daniel (2011). "Martin Rees takes Templeton Prize". Nature. doi:10.1038/news.2011.208.
  65. ^ "ICTP - The Medallists". www.ictp.it.
  66. ^ "European Astronomical Society 2020 prizes" (PDF). European Astronomical Society. 6 March 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  67. ^ "AAS Fellows". AAS. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  68. ^ Copley Medal 2023
  69. ^ "BBC Four – The Sky at Night, The Astronomer Royal at 80". BBC.
  70. ^ "Templeton Report: Martin J. Rees Wins 2011 Templeton Prize". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  71. ^ Sample, Ian (6 April 2011). "Martin Rees: I've got no religious beliefs at all – interview". TheGuardian.com.
  72. ^ "Can humanity survive the future?". Financial Times. October 2018. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 5 January 2020. Rees, while stating he is an atheist, declares that he shares a sense of "mystery" with those who believe in God.
  73. ^ "Martin Rees: 'We shouldn't attach any weight to what Hawking says". The Independent. 27 September 2010. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  74. ^ Radford, Tim (2 December 2005). "Guardian profile: Martin Rees". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2020.

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Professional and academic associations
Preceded by 60th President of the Royal Society
Succeeded by
Preceded by 78th President of the Royal Astronomical Society
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by 37th Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by Gentlemen
Baron Rees of Ludlow
Followed by