RAS Honours Professor Paul Murdin


13 January 2012

Professor Paul Geoffrey Murdin OBE has received the 2012 Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) award for service to astronomy. The RAS Service Award is a richly deserved acknowledgement of his many years of work on behalf of the entire astronomical community.

Professor Murdin is a visiting professor in astrophysics at Liverpool John Moores University and was awarded the OBE in 1988. Paul and his wife Lesley personally sponsor a 'Public Lectures in Astronomy' series organised through the Astrophysics Research Institute. The first lecture in the series brought the Hubble Space Telescope to life looking back on the revolution in astrophysics that it has achieved and forward to what it is achieving now. The next lecture will be on April 19th on the subject of a mysterious ancient astronomical device.

He has made an outstanding contribution to role of astronomy in public life in three areas: as a popular author and broadcaster, as a leader of the Research Councils and as Treasurer of the RAS. In addition Professor Murdin has pursued a healthy research life largely focusing on high energy astrophysics and the properties of objects identified by early X-ray satellites, publishing more than 100 refereed papers.

Throughout his career he has attempted to communicate the excitement of astronomy to a wider audience through popular books; broadcasting in programmes like Radio 4's 'In our time', in frequent interviews on astronomical news stories, in appearances on the 'Sky at Night' and in numerous public lectures. His popularity has its roots in his clear thinking and ability to translate complex physics into everyday language.

Professor Murdin is a past President of the European Astronomical Society (1994-97), a Trustee of the National Maritime Museum (1990-2001), was Head of Operations at the Isaac Newton Group on La Palma (as Head of Operations 1981-87), became Director of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh (1991-93) and then took leading roles in the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council's Astronomy programme and the British National Space Centre.

As Treasurer of the Royal Astronomical Society Professor Murdin oversaw a growth in the Fellowship from about 2800, a level it had been at for some time, to 3500 at the end of his ten-year tenure. Supported by greater financial strength, the Society took on a wider advocacy role, representing the astronomical community more effectively to government, the public and the Research Councils.

RAS announced the winners of the Society's medals and awards for 2012 at its Ordinary Meeting this Friday. These prizes honour leading figures that have made an outstanding contribution to astronomy (designated 'A') and geophysics (designated 'G') and recognise individuals and groups in the UK and around the world.

Professor Roger Davies, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, congratulated the medal and award recipients on their achievements:

"For nearly two hundred years the Society has recognised the achievements of the very best scientific researchers with medals and awards. The extraordinarily talented men and women who will receive prizes this year are amongst the ranks of the leading astronomers, space scientists and geophysicists who continue to shape the way we think about both our own planet and the wider universe."

The awards will be presented at the 2012 National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2012) that will take place from 27 to 30 March in Manchester.



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