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R. Hanbury Brown

AKA Robert Hanbury Brown

Born: 31-Aug-1916
Birthplace: Aruvankadu, India
Died: 16-Jan-2002
Location of death: Andover, Hampshire, England
Cause of death: Cancer - unspecified

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

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Optical intensity interferometer

Working with mathematician Richard Q. Twiss, astronomer R. Hanbury Brown invented the optical intensity interferometer, a telescopic device that allowed astronomers to study stars that until then had been little more than flickers of light, even as mathematicians, physicists, and other experts scoffed that such a device was physically impossible.

Early in his career, Brown worked with Robert Watson-Watt on the secret development of radar, then headed a group that developed a shorter-wavelength radar for use in aircraft. After World War II, he worked with Bernard Lovell at Jodrell Bank Observatory. His research showed that cosmic radio waves emanate from the Andromeda spiral galaxy, leading to the modern understanding of quasars -- "quasi-stellar objects", and he devised methods for minimizing background noises that had plagued early radio astronomy. His autobiography is titled Boffin, an Australian colloquialism with a meaning somewhere between "geek" and "egghead". His grandfather, also named Robert Hanbury Brown, was knighted for his extensive work and writings on irrigation.

Wife: Heather Hilda Chesterman Brown (m. 1952, d. 2003, twin sons, one daughter)
Son: Robert Brown
Son: Jordan Brown
Daughter: Marion Hanbury Brown (pathologist)

    High School: Tonbridge School, Kent, England
    University: BS Electrical Engineering, Brighton Technical College
    University: MS, Telecommunications, University of London (1935)
    Scholar: Narrabri Stellar Intensity Interferometer, University of Sydney
    Scholar: Jodrell Bank Observatory, University of Manchester

    Hughes Medal 1971
    Eddington Medal 1968 (with Richard Q. Twiss)
    Order of Australia 1986
    International Astronomical Union President (1982-85)
    Royal Society 1960

Author of books:
The Exploration of Space by Radio (1957, with Sir Bernard Lovell)
Interferometry of the Intensity Fluctuations in Light (1958, with Richard Q. Twiss)
The Intensity Interferometer: Its Application to Astronomy (1974)
Man and the Stars (1978)
The Wisdom of Science: Its Relevance to Culture and Religion (1986)
Boffin: A Personal Story of the Early Days of Radar, Radio Astronomy and Quantum Optics (1991, autobiography)
There Are No Dinosaurs in the Bible: An Astronomer Talks about Religion and Fundamentalism (2002, posthumous)


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