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Richard Edwin Hills

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Richard Hills
Hills in 2014
Richard Edwin Hills

(1945-09-30)30 September 1945
Died5 June 2022 (aged 76)[1]
EducationBedford School
Alma mater
AwardsJackson-Gwilt Medal (1989)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
ThesisInterferometric Observations of Radio-Emission from Galactic Water Vapour (1973)

Richard Edwin Hills FRS FRAS (30 September 1945 – 5 June 2022)[2][1] was a British astronomer who was emeritus professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Cambridge.[3]


Born on 30 September 1945 and educated at Bedford School, Hills studied the Natural Science Tripos at Queens' College, Cambridge and then went to the University of California, Berkeley to complete his Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Career and research[edit]

Hills was a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Bonn between 1972 and 1974, before he returned to the University of Cambridge and became involved in the development of telescopes and instrumentation for astronomy at wavelengths of around one millimetre—the spectral region that lies between radio waves and infrared—which is relatively unexplored.[4][5]

Hills worked as the project scientist for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope during its design and construction, and went on to use the telescope to observe distant, redshifted quasars and the processes associated with star formation.[6] In December 2007 he was appointed project scientist for the ALMA telescope, a sub-millimeter interferometer in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile.[7]

Hills was a fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge and Director of Studies for Natural Sciences at St Edmund's between 1990 and 2007. He was Professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Cambridge between 1990 and 2007, Deputy Head of the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge between 1999 and 2003, and was emeritus professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Cambridge until his death on 5 June 2022.[2][1]

Awards and honours[edit]

Hills was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's Jackson-Gwilt Medal in 1989, was part of the team given the MacRobert Award for Engineering in 1990[8] and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2014.[9] His nomination for the Royal Society reads:

Since the early 1970s Richard Hills has played a leading role in the development of radio astronomy at millimetre wavelengths, an essential zone of the spectrum for the study of star formation in galaxies. As Project Scientist of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Hawaii he was closely involved with the design and operation of this highly successful telescope. For his outstanding contribution to this project he was awarded the Jackson Gwilt Medal and Gift of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1989. From 2007 to 2012 he was Project Scientist of the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (ALMA) in Chile. The first scheduled observations at 345 GHz using 16 of the planned 66 antennas took place in September 2011. These demonstrated the full angular resolution obtained by phase-coherent aperture synthesis which requires continuous monitoring of atmospheric absorption along the line of sight above each antenna. The outstanding scientific leadership shown by Richard Hills undoubtedly played a major part in the success of this challenging international project.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Pandey, Pooja (6 June 2022). "Richard Hills FRS (1945 – 2022)". www.phy.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  2. ^ a b Anon (2015). "Hills, Prof. Richard Edwin". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U20218. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Richard Edwin Hills publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  4. ^ "Mars probe may hinder science". Times Higher Education. 13 June 1997. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Huge radio telescope ready for business". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  6. ^ "St Edmunds". www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 24 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Closing the loop for ALMA". Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Previous winners and finalists".
  9. ^ Longair, Malcolm S. (2023). "Richard Edwin Hills. 30 September 1945—5 June 2022". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 74: 237–257. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2022.0044. S2CID 256630320.
  10. ^ "Professor Richard Hills FRS". Retrieved 2 October 2014.