Martin John Rees

1989 Balzan Prize for High Energy Astrophysics

Martin John Rees is a leading theoretician in the field of high energy astrophysics and has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of quasars, active galactic nuclei, neutron stars, black holes in cosmic X-ray sources, the formation of galaxies, and a number of other problems of current interest.

After obtaining his MA (in mathematics) and his PhD, Martin Rees held postdoctoral positions in the UK and US, and then became a Professor at the University of Sussex. But he has spent most of his career in Cambridge where, in 1973 he was appointed Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy. He held this post for 18 years, and for 10 of those years was also Director of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy. In 1992 he was appointed to a Royal Society Research Professorship, which he still holds, and became President of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1995 he also acquired the honorary title of Astronomer Royal. Cambridge remains his base, where he continues to teach, and to be involved in various aspects of the University. He is a Senior Fellow of King’s College, and Honorary Fellow of Trinity and Jesus Colleges.

His research contributions have been on cosmology, high energy astrophysics, and space physics. He is a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also holds honorary membership of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy, the Academia Lincei, the Academia Europaea, and the Indian, Swedish, Netherlands and Norwegian Academies. He holds honorary degrees from ten universities. In addition to the Balzan Prize, he has received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Heinemann Prize of the AAS/APS, the Bruce Gold Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Bower Award for Science from the Franklin Institute and the Rossi Prize of the American Astronomical Society and the Cosmology Prize of the Gruber Foundation.

He has always been an enthusiast for international collaboration in science, and has fostered this not only by his individual efforts but through membership of numerous advisory bodies and committees, especially in Europe. He has for many years been active in the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and has served as its President (1994-95).

He is very concerned to prevent the erosion of the UK’s standing and traditions in science and invention.

In addition to his research publications, Martin Rees has written books, including New Perspectives in Astrophysical Cosmology (1995,2000) .
Gravity’s Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe (1995,1998), co-authored with Mitchell Begelman (which won the American Institute of Physics science writing award for 1996, Before the Beginning: our Universe and Others (1997), Just Six Numbers (1999) , and ‘Our Cosmic Habitat’ (2001) and ‘Our Final century?’ (in preparation. He has lectured widely to general audiences in the UK and abroad. He has also been involved in many broadcasts, and is regularly interviewed by the BBC, and overseas media. He has also contributed dozens of newspaper and journal articles on scientific and educational themes.

He serves on the Board of Trustees of the British Museum, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Humanities (UK), the Kennedy Memorial Trust (UK), the Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton).

(April 2002)

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