NEWS & PRESS
Professor Roger Davies becomes President of the Royal Astronomical Society
ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS RELEASE
13 May 2010
For immediate release
RAS PN 10/40
Professor Roger Davies becomes President of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS PN 10/40)
On 14 May 2010, Roger Davies, Philip Wetton Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, will become President of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). Professor Davies will begin his term of office at the 190th Annual General Meeting of the RAS and will serve until May 2012.
Professor Davies grew up in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, where he attended the John Leggott School before going on to read physics at University College London. He started his research career in the 1970s at the University of Cambridge, where he completed his PhD working on the motions and composition of stars in external galaxies. Professor Davies then moved to the United States, starting in California before spending six years on the staff of the US National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona.
There he was a member of the ‘7 Samurai’ team, worked out a new method to measure the distance to galaxies and discovered the ‘Great Attractor’, a huge concentration of galaxies in the southern sky.
In 1988 he moved to Oxford to lead the UK’s participation in the construction of the Gemini 8-m telescopes in Hawaii and Chile. In 1994 Professor Davies took up the post of Professor of Astronomy at Durham University, before going back to Oxford in 2002. Since 2005 he has been Chair of the Physics Department there, where he continues as an active researcher, with interests centring on cosmology and the evolution and formation of galaxies.
Professor Davies also has a longstanding interest in astronomical instruments and telescopes. In recent years he pioneered the use of a new type of astronomical spectrograph, an instrument that spreads out the light from astronomical objects by colour or wavelength, using it to measure the masses and ages of galaxies, as well as to search for black holes in their centres.
The new RAS President is set to head what is now the second largest national astronomical society in the world, with more than 3500 Fellows. He will represent the interests of astronomers and geophysicists in the UK, with the aim of maintaining the leading position of British scientists in these disciplines.
Professor Davies takes over at a time when astronomy and geophysics is in a strong position. For example, UK astronomers and space scientists are world leaders, with their papers cited more than those from any other nation apart from the USA.
In the last decade astronomers in this country have made a huge global contribution, working on giant observatories on the ground, telescopes in space and on the robotic probes that explore our Solar system.
Recent budget pressures are making it difficult to sustain this lead and Professor Davies sees that a key part of his task is to continue to put the case for astronomy and geophysics to senior policymakers. He is also very keen to support astronomers in their engagement with the general public.
He comments, “It is an honour and a privilege to be the new President of the Royal Astronomical Society. More than ever before, we need to make the case for our science, despite the leading position of UK researchers in what has been described as a ‘golden age’ of discovery.
“Over my term of office, I will be working hard to ensure that UK astronomers, space scientists and geophysicists that make up the RAS get the recognition and investment they deserve.
“The work of our Fellows makes a huge contribution to the UK, enriching our society through direct ‘spin out’, through the supply of highly-trained people to a wide range of enterprises, and by inspiring people to take up careers in science.
“Crucially they are very good at their core job - leading on the cutting-edge work that seeks to answer the big questions about the nature of the Universe.
“I am very proud to be a part of such a vibrant community and look forward to serving them over the next two years.”
Professor Roger Davies
Philip Wetton Professor of Astrophysics
University of Oxford
Tel: +44 (0)1865 273305
Email: rld at astro.ox.ac.uk
Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307 / 4582 x. 214
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
NOTES FOR EDITORS
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS: www.ras.org.uk), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.