Guildford Astronomical Society

Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe

Prof Chandra WickramasingheProf Chandra Wickramasinghe

Chandra Wickramasinghe was born and educated in Sri Lanka where he graduated and won a Commonwealth scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. He gained his PhD in Cambridge in 1963 under the supervision of the late Sir Fred Hoyle and that same year was elected a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.

The following year he was appointed a Staff Member of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge where he worked on the nature of Interstellar Dust and published the first definitive book on Interstellar Grains in 1967. In 1973 he was awardedthe ScD by the University of Cambridge.

He is regarded as being one of the world’s leading experts on interstellar material and the origins of life and has made many important contributions in this field, publishing over 350 papers in major scientific journals with over 75 in Nature. In 1974 he first proposed the theory that dust in interstellar space and in comets was largely organic, a theory that has now been vindicated.

Jointly with the late Sir Fred Hoyle he was awarded the International Dag Hammarskjöld Gold Medal for Science in 1986. He was a UNDP Consultant and Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka in 1982-84 and a founder of the Institute of Fundamental Studies in Sri Lanka.

In 1983/84 he was appointed the founder Director of the Institute of Fundamental Studies by President Junius Jayawardene, in 1992 he was decorated by the President of Sri Lanka with the titular honour of Vidyaj Yothi and, in 1996, he was awarded the International Sahabdeen Prize for Science.

In 1973 he was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Physics at University College, Cardiff, being the youngest Professor appointed at the University up to that time. He was responsible for starting an Astrophysics research group in Cardiff under the auspices of a new Department that was formed under his headship, the Department of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy. He remained Head of this Department until 1989 by which time the Astronomy Research School in Cardiff was regarded as being one of the best in the UK. From 1989-1999 he held the post of Professor of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy within a newly structured School of Mathematics at Cardiff University of Wales. In the year 2000 he was appointed Director of the newly formed Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology.

The University announced it was withdrawing funding for the Centre in 2010 and in 2011 the Centre transferred to the University of Buckingham.

He is an award-winning poet and the author or co-author of over 25 books and over 350 scientific papers. He has held visiting professorial appointments in a large number of Universities worldwide. In recognition of his extensive contributions to science and culture he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Soka University of Tokyo, Japan in 1996. He was the John Snow Memorial Lecturer and John Snow Medalist of the Association of Anesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland in 2004.

DateTalk at GAS meeting
4 Oct 2012Life in the Cosmos: New Horizons