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Anthony Hewish is a British astrophysicist famous for his role in the discovery of pulsars. It was considered the most significant astronomical discovery of the 20th century. He received a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974 with Martin Ryle. The prize came with controversy as it excluded Jocelyn Bell, who also had a significant role in discovering pulsars.
See the fact file below for more information on the Anthony Hewish or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Anthony Hewish worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
HEWISH’S EARLY LIFE
- Anthony Hewish was born on May 11, 1924, in Fowey, Cornwall. He was the youngest of three siblings and a son of a banker. He developed his love for the sea and boats while growing up in a small seaside town on the Atlantic coast of North Cornwall.
- He was always curious about how things worked and experimented with chemistry and electrical circuits. He made a crystal set radio receiver because he stayed in a dormitory where radio was not allowed.
- Hewish attended Kings College, Taunton, Somerset, England, and got an undergraduate degree from Gonville and Caius College at the University of Cambridge in 1942.
- During World War 2 from 1943 to 1946, Hewish needed to halt his studies. He served at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough and the Telecommunications Research Establishment in Malvern.
- While working on airborne radar-countermeasure devices, he met Martin Ryle, his co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics.
HEWISH ACADEMIC CAREER
- He returned to Cambridge after the war in 1946 and graduated in 1948, then joined Ryle’s research team at Cavendish Laboratory.
- He finished his doctorate in Cambridge in 1952. He was also named Research Fellow at Gonville and Caius College.
- He moved to Churchill College, Cambridge in 1961. He was a lecturer from 1961–1969, promoted to a reader, and then became a Professor of Radio Astronomy from 1971 until his retirement.
- He also became the Director of Studies in Physics at the same university.
- Upon Ryle’s illness in 1977, he assumed the leadership position of the Cambridge Radio Astronomy Group. From 1982-1988, he headed the Mullard Radio A Observatory.
THE DISCOVERY OF PULSARS
- Pulsars are rapidly rotating, highly magnetized neutron stars that appear to pulse because they emit rapid and significant periodic pulses of radiation.
- Hewish’s experiences with electronics and antennas during the war influenced his fascination with radio astronomy. He also credited Jack Ratcliffe, his teacher, who had given an excellent electromagnetic theory course during the last part of his undergraduate years.
- The discovery of first two radio stars made Hewish realize that their “twinkling” or scintillation could be used to study conditions in the ionosphere.
- He developed the theory of diffraction by phase-modulating screens and set-up radio interferometers. It allowed him to measure the height and physical scale of plasma clouds and estimate wind speeds in the ionosphere.
- Following the discovery of interplanetary scintillation at Cambridge in 1964, Hewish developed similar methods to measure solar wind.
- He also proved that they could get high-angular resolution in radio astronomy through interplanetary scintillation. He conceived the idea of having a giant phased-array antenna for a major sky survey.
- It was meant to be highly sensitive at long wavelengths and had a multi-beam capability for repeated whole-sky surveys.
- Funding was obtained in 1965. By July 1967, the Interplanetary Scintillation Array at Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory began detecting scintillating resources.
- Jocelyn Bell, a graduate student responsible for analyzing the data in the sky survey, noticed anomalies in the pattern. It was very different from quasars and was too fast to be coming from anything like a star. It was a series of sharp pulses occurring every 1.3 seconds, consistently from the same patch of sky.
- The team worked to eliminate all possible radio pulse sources, including earthly and extraterrestrial interference. They even playfully named the pulse LGM 1, which means “little green men”.
- Upon confirming that there was no interference, they named the signals pulsars, a combination of ‘pulsating’ and ‘quasar’. This discovery also helped strengthen other scientific theories at the time.
NOBEL PRIZE CONTROVERSY
- Part of Hewish and Ryle’s team was one of Hewish’s graduate students, Jocelyn Bell. She discovered the first radio source that was named pulsars.
- Hewish published a research paper about the discovery. The report listed five authors with Hewish name’s first in the list followed by his student, Bell.
- However, only Anthony Hewish and Martin Ryle received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974; Ryle for his observations and inventions of the aperture synthesis technique and Hewish for his decisive role in discovering pulsars.
- The Nobel Committee received a backlash for not including Bell’s name as a recipient. Fred Hoyle was very vocal in criticizing the Nobel Committee about this. He also expressed his disappointment for Hewish, who should not have accepted the award according to him.
- Bell clarified that she was not upset about being omitted and accepted the Nobel Committee’s decision.
HEWISH’S LEGACY AND RECOGNITION
- Hewish’s phased array instrument is still being utilized to this day. It was used to support daily observations of different scintillations and map any changing patterns in the solar wind. It also helps observe interplanetary weather conditions.
- Aside from the Nobel Prize in Physics, awards also came pouring in for Hewish. He was awarded an Eddington Medal in 1969, Institute of Physics Charles Vernon Boys Prize in 1970, and International Union of Radio Science John Howard Dellinger Medal in 1972.
- He also received the William Hopkins Prize in 1973 and the Royal Society Hughes Medal in 1976.
HEWISH’S LATER YEARS
- Anthony Hewish got married in 1950 to Marjorie Elizabeth Catherine Richard. They had one son, who became a physicist and received a PhD for neutron scattering in liquids, and one daughter, a language teacher.
- He was approached to consider being a Master of a Cambridge college, but thought the lifestyle would not suit him. He continued to live as an ordinary scientist and professor.
Anthony Hewish Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Anthony Hewish across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Anthony Hewish worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Anthony Hewish who is a British astrophysicist famous for his role in the discovery of pulsars. It was considered the most significant astronomical discovery of the 20th century. He received a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974 with Martin Ryle. The prize came with controversy as it excluded Jocelyn Bell, who also had a significant role in discovering pulsars.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Anthony Hewish Facts
- Hewish’s Profile
- Astrophysicist Wisdom
- Pulsing Details
- Life of an Astrophysicist
- Pulsar Progression
- Hewish’s Questions
- A Nobel Dispute
- Triumphs in Pulsars
- A Nobel Relationship
- Alien: Fact or Bluff?
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