GLOWING ACCOLADE FOR SCOTTISH SOLAR PHYSICIST.
A University of St Andrews solar physicist has been awarded one of the world’s most prestigious accolades for his shining contribution to solar theory. Professor Eric Priest of the School of Mathematics and Statistics was this week awarded the Hale Prize 2002, usually awarded every two years by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). It is the highest award of the AAS for a solar physicist and is normally awarded at the peak of a career for a lifetime's work.
As part of the ceremony at the annual meeting of the Society in Albuquerque, New Mexico in June, Professor Priest was awarded a medal, honorarium and citation in recognition of his contributions. He also gave the Hale Prize Lecture on "Our Enigmatic Sun" in which he communicated the excitement and vitality of solar physics and its central importance for astronomy as a whole.
In his review, he summarised the basic properties of the Sun and described the major progress that has recently been made on a set of key questions that have far-reaching implications for many other parts of the Universe, namely:
1. How is the magnetic field generated ?
2. How are winds accelerated ?
3. How do eruptions occur ?
4. How is magnetic energy converted to other forms ?
5. How are coronae heated ?
It is highly unusual for the Hale Prize to go to a non-US citizen. Indeed, there has only been one other UK holder of the Prize, namely Professor Gough from Cambridge. According to the AAS, Professor Priest is being singled out for "his seminal contributions to investigations of the role of the magnetic field in solar activity and for his tireless advocacy of solar physics in all corners of the world."
Professor Priest said, "When I heard the news I was flabbergasted. I had been unaware that my name had been proposed and so it came out of the blue and is a great honour and privilege."
As well as building up, from scratch, one of the finest solar theory groups in the world, Professor Priest has worked hard over many years to help many research students and postdocs - 30 of them now have permanent lectureships or professorships in universities. He has also strived to further the subject in general and to communicate it to astronomers and solar system scientists worldwide.
Professor Priest has also written/edited nearly 20 books and nearly 400 research papers including a research monograph on "Solar Magnetohydrodynamics" which has become the standard in the field. His latest book on "Magnetic Reconnection" was recently published by Cambridge University Press.
NOTES FOR EDITORS.
Professor Priest is holder of the Gregory Chair in Mathematics at the University of St. Andrews, and he is a member of the Solar Theory Group within the School of Mathematics and Statistics. He is a past President of the Commission on Solar Activity, International Astronomical Union.
His research has involved developing mathematical models for fundamental dynamic processes at work in the Sun, and elsewhere in the universe. In particular, he has studied the ways that solar flares occur and how magnetic fields can heat the atmosphere of the Sun to millions of degrees centigrade. The St Andrews Group is one of the main solar theory groups in the world, attempting to explain the many puzzling new observations of the Sun from a series of American, Japanese and European space satellites.
In May 2002, Professor Priest was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society - a highly prestigious honour which represents the greatest academic recognition for a scientist in the United Kingdom. He is one of only two Fellows elected from a Scottish University this year. Professor Priest will be admitted to the Royal Society together with the other new fellows at a ceremony in London in July.
For more information or a picture of Professor Priest please contact:
University of St Andrews
Tel: +44 (0)1334 462530
Mob. +44 (0)7730 415 015
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