|Astronomy & Geophysics 45 (3) 3.39|
|Sir Robert Boyd, 19222004|
Fellow and Councillor of the Society, pioneer of UK space science.
Robert Boyd, who was born in 1922 in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, died on 5 February 2004 aged 81. He will be remembered in particular for his crucial role in establishing the disciplines of space science in the UK. His pioneering work, along with that of his mentor Sir Harrie Massey, did much to propel the UK to the forefront of this dramatic new area of physical science. Trained in electrical engineering, his interest shifted to physics and, following a PhD on studies of ionized gases at University College London, he went on to establish space science at UCL. As director of the College's Mullard Space Science Laboratory from 1965 to 1983, he created a unique environment in which engineers and scientists worked together on topics that ranged from studies of Earth, Sun and solar system to observations of the most energetic objects in the universe.
At age two, the family moved to South Croydon where his father became Head of Science at the Croydon Polytechnic. Robert and his twin brother enrolled at Imperial College in 1941 and, following graduation, he joined the Admiralty Mine Design Department in 1943. Here he encountered Harrie Massey, thus beginning an association that was to prove so important for the future of UK space activities. Other staff members who nurtured his growing interest in physical science included the physicist David Bates, the oceanographer George Deacon and Francis Crick, later to win a Nobel Prize for his work on the structure of DNA. This formative period exposed him to a range of instrumentation-based disciplines and he gained vital experience in conducting field trials of instruments using aircraft and ships.
After the war Massey, accompanied by Bates, returned to UCL. Once re-established there, they invited Boyd to undertake research in ionized gas physics for which he was awarded a PhD in 1949. He continued his work with ionized gases but the era of in-situ observations of plasmas in the Earth's upper atmosphere and beyond was about to begin. In May 1953 Massey walked into Boyd's laboratory and posed the question: Boyd, how would you like some rockets for research? The rocket in question was the then newly developed Skylark vehicle that was later to become the mainstay of UK upper atmosphere and space astronomy research. Suffice to say that Boyd responded enthusiastically to this challenge and within a few years had built up Britain's leading space physics research group at UCL. Studies of the ionosphere, requiring the development of innovative Langmuir Probe and other instrumentation in which Boyd excelled, led naturally to the need for measurement of the Sun's X-ray emission. This in turn opened the way for the detection of cosmic X-rays, which has allowed us to study some of the most energetic objects in the universe, namely neutron stars and black holes. A crucial step in this sequence came with the launch of the UK/US Ariel I spacecraft in 1962. The first international collaborative science mission of the space age, Ariel I was designed to study the ionosphere, solar X-rays and high-energy cosmic-ray particles. UK/US collaboration in this ground-breaking project established an enduring relationship with NASA that led to many future UK involvements in NASA spacecraft. Boyd and his colleagues played the major part in this hugely successful mission that thus paved the way for a substantial expansion of the British space science effort.
Programme expansion created the need for larger facilities and with the aid of a generous donation by the Mullard Company to University College, Boyd established the College's Mullard Space Science Laboratory at Holmbury St Mary in Surrey and became its first Director. The laboratory subsequently became a world-leading centre for the space sciences. Many of its staff and research students have gone on to lead successful space research groups both in the UK and elsewhere. Under Boyd's leadership, MSSL instruments were launched on orbiting spacecraft at an average rate of one each year. He also initiated a programme of Earth studies from space that has grown to become a leading activity in the study of Earth's climate evolution.
From the beginning he played a significant part in the founding of the European Space Research Organization and in the development of its successor body, the European Space Agency. His role in an early version of the Agency's science advisory structure was crucial in setting the course of the ESA scientific programme, which has since become a major European success. He was a member of the UK Science Research Council (197781) and Chairman of its Astronomy Space and Radio Board (197780). Elected FRS in 1969, he delivered the Society's Bakerian Lecture in 1978 and was awarded an honorary DSc by Herriot Watt University in 1979. Appointed CBE in 1972, he was knighted in 1983.
His practical skills also found expression in support of a long standing interest in restoring Rolls Royce and Bentley cars. He continued this activity in retirement and maintained a well-equipped workshop. Given their substantial appreciation in value following his work, he used to remark that a Rolls Royce was the only vehicle he could afford to run. However, it was characteristic of his strong Christian philosophy that he auctioned one of his prized vehicles and raised a substantial sum for famine relief.
Robert Boyd was a deeply religious man. Through his writings, lectures and broadcasts on science and faith in the 1950s and 60s he assisted with the growth of the Research Scientists' Christian Fellowship that grew into the larger and more influential Christians in Science of today. He saw no conflict between faith and science; on the contrary he saw them as complementing each other in a very subtle manner. He married Mary Higgins of Bradford in 1949 for what was to prove a long and happy union; she died in 1996. He is survived by his second wife, Betty, Lady Boyd, whose love and care enhanced his final years, and by his daughter and two sons.
|Elizabeth Puchnarewicz, 19642003|
Fellow of the RAS, active galactic nuclei astronomer, innovative teacher and good friend.
Liz Puchnarewicz, a senior lecturer in astrophysics at University College London, Department of Space and Climate Physics, and a Fellow of the RAS, died tragically, shortly before Christmas. She was a well-known and respected member of the astrophysics community worldwide, a well-loved supervisor and teacher, fiancée to Michael and a devoted mother to Laura.
On leaving school Liz initially joined Lloyds Bank and was soon singled out as a promising candidate for a high-flying career in international banking. But she did not find the bank sufficiently challenging and after a couple of years she left to do a degree in astronomy at UCL. She was a keen and able student and spent many a night observing at the University of London Observatory. Liz was awarded a first class honours degree in 1988 and then joined the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) as a postgraduate, obtaining her PhD in 1992. She was presented with the Harrie Massey Prize for Research in 1991 for her thesis work.
Liz's main research interest was active galactic nuclei (AGN). In her research she used data from the radio to X-rays, as part of a committed approach to multiwavelength astrophysics. In her thesis Liz showed for the first time that an important group of AGN, the so-called narrow-line Seyfert 1s, emit very soft X-rays preferentially. This seminal discovery, based on optical identification of X-ray sources found in Einstein and EXOSAT observatory X-ray survey images, prompted much debate about the nature of accretion in these and other active galaxies, which continues to the present day. Later, as part of a population study of AGN taken from ROSAT, Liz found that, in general, the overall spectrum was consistent with the presence of an optical to X-ray big bump. This big bump may be associated with emission from an accretion disk, or perhaps from a region of optically thin clouds surrounding the black hole.
In her continued investigation of the soft X-ray emission from AGN, Liz studied those AGN with the strongest emission from the inner edge of the accretion disk, the so-called ultra-soft X-ray AGN. She suggested that these might be AGN with disks seen pole-on or, alternatively, with low-mass black holes and high accretion rates. One of the most interesting results to come out of her studies of this class of AGN was that they also have low-velocity broad line emission not observed in normal AGN. The lower velocities of these lines are consistent with both these models. However, by combining UV data from the Hubble Space Telescope with X-ray data from XMM-Newton on the ultra-soft REJ 1034+396, Liz found that neither description may be appropriate, but rather that a more fundamental physical effect may be occurring, i.e. that the ionizing spectrum (including the soft X-rays) is determining where the lines are actually produced.
Liz's work on active galaxies in these multiwavelength regimes greatly progressed the understanding of accretion and broad-line emission in soft excess AGN, making her a leader in this field. Liz became a lecturer at MSSL in 1996 and a senior lecturer in 2002, teaching courses on high-energy astrophysics and introductory astronomy and cosmology, as well as supervising masters and PhD students. Liz was a pioneer in the successful implementation of the multimedia teaching facility at UCL and gave lectures via a videoconferencing link from MSSL. She became involved in projects assessing novel methods of teaching using the new technology and contributed papers to conferences and exhibitions to this end.
Liz was also a dedicated science educator outside her university teaching. She was involved in countless outreach activities, giving talks to schools and societies and at science events. Liz master-minded the MSSL web pages and enjoyed thinking up new ways of getting difficult physical concepts across to people, using animations as well as words. Her ability to communicate with the general public was noticed by the media, who often asked her to comment on news, space missions etc on radio and television.
Liz was always the life and soul of the party, conference or meeting. She made friends easily, but remained resolutely loyal to her old friends as well. Liz had tremendous belief in herself and would not be patronized; she spoke up for what she knew was right and was never afraid of an argument. She was willing to confront anyone, however important or senior, but always with a great sense of humour and a twinkle in her eye. It is hard to imagine that someone so full of life and energy is no longer with us.
Liz will be remembered not only for her achievements in the field of high-energy astrophysics and talent for communicating science to others, but also for her lively and charismatic personality which shone through in all she did.
|Janet Akyüz Mattei, 19432004|
Jackson-Gwilt medallist of the RAS, variable star astronomer and long-term supporter of amateur observers.
Janet Mattei, who had been director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) for 30 years, died on 22 March 2004 after acute leukaemia.
Janet was born in Bodrum in Turkey and after graduating from high school she travelled to the United States to study at Brandeis University, from where she graduated in 1965. In 1967 she returned to Turkey to teach mathematics and physics but later left teaching to begin graduate studies in astronomy. In 1969 Janet was working towards a MSc when she learnt of a summer research programme under Dr Dorrit Hoffleit at Maria Mitchell Observatory in Nantucket. The decision by Dorrit to hire Janet as her assistant and the introduction to variable stars had a major impact on Janet's life. This was when she joined the AAVSO and three years later she married Mike Mattei.
The tie with variable-star research was by now very strong and, as a brilliant student and young scientist, Janet was hired as assistant to the then AAVSO Director Margaret Mayall in 1972. Within six months and on the retirement of Margaret, the AAVSO Council appointed Janet as Director. In 1974 the author joined the AAVSO and was surprised to receive a personal letter written by Janet. I have kept the letter to this day, because unlike the usual stereotyped message issued by many groups on joining, this was full of obvious enthusiasm and offers of help that mean so much to new observers.
I was fortunate enough to meet Janet on many occasions during her 30 years as Director of the AAVSO, both in the USA and UK. The enthusiasm contained in that first letter was even more obvious on chatting with her. Her support for both individual amateur astronomers and the various observing groups around the world was a key part in the development of variable-star studies. Janet's links with professional astronomers and her promotion of the Pro-Am concept led to numerous exchanges between the two sides. Amateurs found, as a result of Janet's guidance, that all those long hours making variable-star estimates were really worthwhile. Of the many meetings I attended there are one or two memorable moments. In May of 1994 Janet visited Cambridge, England and met with several amateur astronomers. One of these was the late George Alcock who went on to discover five novae and five comets visually with binoculars. Janet was absolutely thrilled to meet him and express her admiration for his work.
More recently, in March of 2000 I learnt that Janet, as leader of the AAVSO, had been in touch with officials at NASA regarding gamma-ray bursters whose amazing amounts of energy were proving a difficult challenge to our understanding of these objects. Janet also recognized that detection of afterglows, which were only bright for perhaps a matter of hours, was an excellent new challenge in which amateur astronomers could participate. A joint High Energy Astrophysics conference was arranged in April of that year in Huntsville, Alabama. Janet's enthusiasm was again to the fore as she persuaded representatives from each country to go back and form teams to observe these afterglows, an effort that later proved successful with detections by amateurs in USA and Europe. The superb organization of this event, with all the social activities arranged by Janet and her colleagues, made everyone feel part of a worldwide team from the day they arrived. Yet another meeting with Janet at the International Astronomical Union's 24th Assembly in Manchester in August 2000 demonstrated her connections with professionals and the respect with which they held her. Janet was on hand again to introduce her professional friends and colleagues, to make a pleasant freindly meeting out of what might otherwise have been quite a daunting experience for those amateur astronomers who attended.
During her 30 years of devoted service to the AAVSO and astronomy, much has changed. The early years were largely the collation of visual estimates of variable stars. This gradually changed as both our understanding of such objects increased and CCD imaging began to play a dominant role. Janet always adapted to new technology and encouraged observers to participate and try new techniques. Alongside this she was very keen to promote education in astronomy and her talks given worldwide were an inspiration to everyone to spread the word that there was an important role for all observers in variable-star research. The feedback, principally in the increased level of observations, produced a tremendous challenge in the management of the AAVSO database. Among many initiatives that have proved valuable, is the option for anyone to call up immediate feedback on the latest raw results on virtually any variable via the website. Despite the demands of managing the AAVSO, she also found time to prepare and have published more than 180 papers in mostly refereed journals.
In 1995 Janet received the Jackson-Gwilt medal from the Royal Astronomical Society, which had also been awarded, much earlier in 1963, to George Alcock whom Janet admired so much. She was also the recipient of the Leslie Peltier Award of the Astronomical League, the American Astronomical Society's George Van Biesbroeck Award, the first Giovanni Battista Lacchini Award of the Unione Astrofili Italiana, and the Centennial Medal for leadership in variable stars from the Societé Astronomique de France. She has also been honoured with an asteroid named Minor Planet (11695) Mattei.
Janet, through her enthusiasm for astronomy and her warm personality, touched the hearts of so many people around the world, highlighted by the many messages of tribute circulating on the internet. She has left a lasting legacy that we shall remember for years to come.
Guy M Hurst
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