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Michael Seaton

AKA Michael John Seaton

Born: 16-Jun-1923
Birthplace: Bristol, England
Died: 29-May-2007
Location of death: Brecon, Gloucestershire, England
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Astronomer, Physicist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Opacity Project

Military service: Royal Air Force (1940-45, Lt.)

Astrophysicist Michael Seaton was among the first to apply new theories of quantum mechanics to the infinite reaches of space, and later became a pioneer in using computers instead of longhand calculations. He was expelled from high school for communist sympathies, though he demanded and was eventually allowed to matriculate. He then worked in a chemical factory for two years, and served in World War II before attending University College London, where he studied under David Bates and Harrie Massey. Beginning in 1983, Seaton headed the Opacity Project, an international effort involving dozens of nuclear physicists to correct serious flaws in stellar opacities using a new R-matrix methodology, which also solved several related problems of computational astrophysics. He conducted important research into dielectronic recombination, implementation of the coupled channel approximation, the non-hydrogenic treatment of photoionization, proton-impact excitation of ions, and quantum defect theory. For all his undisputed brilliance, his work was so far removed from observational astronomy that when challenged by colleagues Seaton was unable to find even such well-known constellations as Orion in the night sky.

Wife: Olive Singleton (d. 1958, one daughter, one son)
Wife: Joy Balchin (one son)
Son: Anthony Seaton

    High School: Wallington County Grammar School, Surrey, England (1940)
    University: BS Special Physics, University College London (1948)
    University: PhD Astronomy, University College London (1951)
    Teacher: Astronomy, University College London (1951-63)
    Professor: Astronomy, University College London (1951-88)

    Hughes Medal 1992
    Guthrie Medal 1984
    Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal 1983 (with Fred Whipple)
    National Academy of Sciences Foreign Associate
    Royal Society 1967
    Royal Astronomical Society President (1978)
    Expelled from School

Author of books:
The opacity project (1995, with Opacity Project Team; two volumes)


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