Martin Ryle

Martin Ryle

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Sir
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

 Martin Ryle (27 September 1918 – 14 October 1984) was an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 radio astronomer
Radio astronomy
Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies. The initial detection of radio waves from an astronomical object was made in the 1930s, when Karl Jansky observed radiation coming from the Milky Way. Subsequent observations have identified a number of...

 who developed revolutionary radio telescope
Radio telescope
A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy. The same types of antennas are also used in tracking and collecting data from satellites and space probes...

 systems (see e.g. aperture synthesis
Aperture synthesis
Aperture synthesis or synthesis imaging is a type of interferometry that mixes signals from a collection of telescopes to produce images having the same angular resolution as an instrument the size of the entire collection...

) and used them for accurate location and imaging of weak radio sources. In 1946 Ryle and Vonberg were the first people to publish interferometric
Astronomical interferometer
An astronomical interferometer is an array of telescopes or mirror segments acting together to probe structures with higher resolution by means of interferometry....

 astronomical measurements at radio wavelengths, although it is claimed that Joseph Pawsey from the University of Sydney
University of Sydney
The University of Sydney is a public university located in Sydney, New South Wales. The main campus spreads across the suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington on the southwestern outskirts of the Sydney CBD. Founded in 1850, it is the oldest university in Australia and Oceania...

 had actually made interferometric measurements earlier in the same year. With improved equipment, Ryle observed the most distant known galaxies in the universe at that time. He was the first Professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Cambridge
Cavendish Astrophysics Group
The Cavendish Astrophysics Group is based at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. The group operates all of the telescopes at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory except for the 32m MERLIN telescope, which is operated by Jodrell Bank.The group is the second largest of three...

, and founding director of the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory
Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory
Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory is home to a number of large aperture synthesis radio telescopes, including the One-Mile Telescope, 5-km Ryle Telescope, and the Arcminute Microkelvin Imager...

. He was Astronomer Royal
Astronomer Royal
Astronomer Royal is a senior post in the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. There are two officers, the senior being the Astronomer Royal dating from 22 June 1675; the second is the Astronomer Royal for Scotland dating from 1834....

 from 1972 to 1982.

Ryle and Antony Hewish
Antony Hewish
Antony Hewish FRS is a British radio astronomer who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974 for his work on the development of radio aperture synthesis and its role in the discovery of pulsars...

 shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974, the first Nobel prize awarded in recognition of astronomical research.

Biography



He was born in Brighton, the son of Professor John Alfred Ryle and Miriam (née Scully) Ryle. He is also the nephew of the famous Oxford University Professor of Philosophy Gilbert Ryle
Gilbert Ryle
Gilbert Ryle , was a British philosopher, a representative of the generation of British ordinary language philosophers that shared Wittgenstein's approach to philosophical problems, and is principally known for his critique of Cartesian dualism, for which he coined the phrase "the ghost in the...

 (Gilbert Ryle and John Alfred Ryle were brothers).

After earning a physics degree at the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 in 1939, Ryle worked with the Telecommunications Research Establishment
Telecommunications Research Establishment
The Telecommunications Research Establishment was the main United Kingdom research and development organization for radio navigation, radar, infra-red detection for heat seeking missiles, and related work for the Royal Air Force during World War II and the years that followed. The name was...

 on the design of antennas for airborne radar equipment during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. After the war he received a fellowship
Scholarship
A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further education. Scholarships are awarded on various criteria usually reflecting the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.-Types:...

 at the Cavendish Laboratory
Cavendish Laboratory
The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the university's School of Physical Sciences. It was opened in 1874 as a teaching laboratory....

.

The focus of early work in Cambridge was on radio waves from the Sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

. Ryle's interest quickly shifted to other areas, however, and to explore those he decided early on that the Cambridge group
Cavendish Astrophysics Group
The Cavendish Astrophysics Group is based at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. The group operates all of the telescopes at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory except for the 32m MERLIN telescope, which is operated by Jodrell Bank.The group is the second largest of three...

 should develop new observing techniques. As a result, Ryle was the driving force in the creation and improvement of astronomical interferometry and aperture synthesis
Aperture synthesis
Aperture synthesis or synthesis imaging is a type of interferometry that mixes signals from a collection of telescopes to produce images having the same angular resolution as an instrument the size of the entire collection...

, which have contributed immensely to upgrading the quality of radio astronomical data. In 1946 he built the first multi-element astronomical radio interferometer.

He guided the Cambridge radio astronomy group
Cavendish Astrophysics Group
The Cavendish Astrophysics Group is based at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. The group operates all of the telescopes at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory except for the 32m MERLIN telescope, which is operated by Jodrell Bank.The group is the second largest of three...

 in the production of several important radio source catalogues. For example, the Third Cambridge Catalogue of Radio Sources
Third Cambridge Catalogue of Radio Sources
The Third Cambridge Catalogue of Radio Sources is an astronomical catalogue of celestial radio sources detected originally at 159 MHz, and subsequently at 178 MHz. It was published in 1959 by members of the Radio Astronomy Group of the University of Cambridge...

 (3C) 1959 helped lead to the discovery of the first quasi-stellar object (quasar
Quasar
A quasi-stellar radio source is a very energetic and distant active galactic nucleus. Quasars are extremely luminous and were first identified as being high redshift sources of electromagnetic energy, including radio waves and visible light, that were point-like, similar to stars, rather than...

).

While serving as university lecturer in physics at Cambridge from 1948 to 1959, Ryle became director of the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory
Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory
Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory is home to a number of large aperture synthesis radio telescopes, including the One-Mile Telescope, 5-km Ryle Telescope, and the Arcminute Microkelvin Imager...

 1957, and professor of radio astronomy in 1959. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 in 1952, was knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

ed in 1966, and succeeded Sir Richard Woolley
Richard van der Riet Woolley
Richard van der Riet Woolley was an English astronomer who became Astronomer Royal. His mother's maiden name was Van der Riet....

 as Astronomer Royal
Astronomer Royal
Astronomer Royal is a senior post in the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. There are two officers, the senior being the Astronomer Royal dating from 22 June 1675; the second is the Astronomer Royal for Scotland dating from 1834....

 (1972–82). Ryle and Antony Hewish shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974, the first Nobel prize awarded in recognition of astronomical research. In 1968 he served as professor of astronomy at Gresham College
Gresham College
Gresham College is an institution of higher learning located at Barnard's Inn Hall off Holborn in central London, England. It was founded in 1597 under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham and today it hosts over 140 free public lectures every year within the City of London.-History:Sir Thomas Gresham,...

, London.

Sir Martin Ryle died on 14 October 1984, in Cambridge. He had married Rowena Palmer in 1947.

Astronomy


Martin Ryle was undoubtedly one of the great astronomers of the 20th Century. He was sometimes considered difficult to work with - in fact he often worked in an office at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory
Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory
Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory is home to a number of large aperture synthesis radio telescopes, including the One-Mile Telescope, 5-km Ryle Telescope, and the Arcminute Microkelvin Imager...

 to avoid disturbances from other members of the Cavendish Laboratory
Cavendish Laboratory
The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the university's School of Physical Sciences. It was opened in 1874 as a teaching laboratory....

 and to avoid getting into heated arguments, as Ryle had a hot temper. Ryle worried that Cambridge would lose its standing in the radio astronomy community as other radio astronomy groups had much better funding, so he encouraged a certain amount of secrecy about his aperture synthesis methods in order to keep an advantage for the Cambridge group
Cavendish Astrophysics Group
The Cavendish Astrophysics Group is based at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. The group operates all of the telescopes at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory except for the 32m MERLIN telescope, which is operated by Jodrell Bank.The group is the second largest of three...

.

Ryle had a famous heated argument with Fred Hoyle
Fred Hoyle
Sir Fred Hoyle FRS was an English astronomer and mathematician noted primarily for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters—in particular his rejection of the "Big Bang" theory, a term originally...

 of the Institute of Astronomy
Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge
The Institute of Astronomy is the largest of the three astronomy departments in the University of Cambridge, and one of the largest astronomy sites in the UK...

 about Hoyle's Steady State Universe
Steady State theory
In cosmology, the Steady State theory is a model developed in 1948 by Fred Hoyle, Thomas Gold, Hermann Bondi and others as an alternative to the Big Bang theory...

 (see also the note on the 2C source survey), which somewhat restricted collaboration between the Cavendish Radio Astronomy Group
Cavendish Astrophysics Group
The Cavendish Astrophysics Group is based at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. The group operates all of the telescopes at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory except for the 32m MERLIN telescope, which is operated by Jodrell Bank.The group is the second largest of three...

 and the Institute of Astronomy
Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge
The Institute of Astronomy is the largest of the three astronomy departments in the University of Cambridge, and one of the largest astronomy sites in the UK...

 during the 1960s.

Ryle also authored a couple of short books on Nuclear Proliferation ('Politics of Nuclear Disarmament') where he argues that the only way to save the planet Earth from complete nuclear annihilation is to ban the use of any nuclear devices indefinitely.
Ryle was a Amateur radio operator
Amateur radio operator
An amateur radio operator is an individual who typically uses equipment at an amateur radio station to engage in two-way personal communications with other similar individuals on radio frequencies assigned to the amateur radio service. Amateur radio operators have been granted an amateur radio...

 and held the GB-Callsign G3CY.

Honours and awards

  • Hughes Medal
    Hughes Medal
    The Hughes Medal is awarded by the Royal Society of London "in recognition of an original discovery in the physical sciences, particularly electricity and magnetism or their applications". Named after David E. Hughes, the medal is awarded with a gift of £1000. The medal was first awarded in 1902 to...

     (1954)
  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    -History:In the early years, more than one medal was often awarded in a year, but by 1833 only one medal was being awarded per year. This caused a problem when Neptune was discovered in 1846, because many felt an award should jointly be made to John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier...

     (1964)
  • Henry Draper Medal
    Henry Draper Medal
    The Henry Draper Medal is awarded by the United States National Academy of Sciences "for investigations in astronomical physics". Named after Henry Draper, the medal is awarded with a gift of USD $15,000...

     of the National Academy of Sciences
    United States National Academy of Sciences
    The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

     (1965)
  • Albert A. Michelson Medal of the Franklin Institute
    Franklin Institute
    The Franklin Institute is a museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and one of the oldest centers of science education and development in the United States, dating to 1824. The Institute also houses the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial.-History:On February 5, 1824, Samuel Vaughn Merrick and...

     (1971)
  • Royal Medal
    Royal Medal
    The Royal Medal, also known as The Queen's Medal, is a silver-gilt medal awarded each year by the Royal Society, two for "the most important contributions to the advancement of natural knowledge" and one for "distinguished contributions in the applied sciences" made within the Commonwealth of...

     (1973)
  • Bruce Medal
    Bruce Medal
    The Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal is awarded every year by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding lifetime contributions to astronomy. It is named after Catherine Wolfe Bruce, an American patroness of astronomy, and was first awarded in 1898...

     (1974)
  • Nobel Prize in Physics
    Nobel Prize in Physics
    The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

     (1974)

  • Ryle Telescope
    Ryle Telescope
    The Ryle Telescope was a linear east-west radio telescope array at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory. In 2004 three of the telescopes were moved to create a compact two-dimensional array of telescopes at the east end of the interferometer. The remaining five antennas were switched off on 19...

     at Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory

External links