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Emeritus Professor John Dyson

Emeritus Professor John Dyson

We are sorry to have to inform members of the death, on 3 February 2010, of Emeritus Professor John Dyson, former Professor of Astronomy and Head of Physics and Astronomy.

Professor Tom Hartquist, a long-standing friend and colleague, has contributed the following obituary.

For over four decades, John conducted pioneering research on the responses of astrophysical environments to the winds of stars ranging from young solar-like and much more massive stars to evolved stars to supermassive black holes at the centres of quasars and other active galaxies.

Born on 7 January 1941 in Meltham, West Yorkshire, John studied at the Harrogate Grammar School and the Cockburn High School, in Leeds. He was head boy in his final year. In 1962, he obtained a first class BSc Special Honours Degree in Physics from Kings College London and on 28 February 1966 passed his oral examination for a PhD after conducting his postgraduate research under the supervision of Franz Kahn in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Manchester. In 1966 and 1967 he held a Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Fellowship and then a Fulbright Fellowship which supported his stay at the University of Wisconsin. From October 1967 he was a member of academic staff at the University of Manchester, where he became the Professor of Astronomy and the Head of Astrophysics. He took a sabbatical in the Max-Planck-Institut fr Astrophysik in 1977-78, and went on to make frequent return visits to Munich over the next two decades. In April 1996, he left Manchester permanently and moved to the University of Leeds. Upon his retirement from full-time employment in 2006, he became a Research Professor. The title of Emeritus Professor was also conferred upon him.

In addition to performing outstanding research, John contributed greatly to the education of an entire generation of professional astrophysicists, who have used the two editions of The Physics of the Interstellar Medium, which he co-authored with David Williams. He authored and edited several other volumes with a wide range of intended audiences, from the scientifically curious non-specialist to the expert. He was also editor-in-chief of Astrophysics and Space Science for more than a dozen years.

John served on numerous external professional committees and was President of Division VI of the International Astronomical Union from 2003 to 2006. His work as Dean for Research in the Research School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences from 1998 to 2000 benefited the Faculty and the University alike.

Those who have had the privilege of knowing John experienced his warmth, kindness, and gracious generosity. His wonderful quick wit has entertained and given joy to them.

John's stature as a research scientist and a great friend and colleague to many motivated the organisation of three meetings and the publication of two Festschrifts honouring him. One of the meetings was held in Mexico, one of the countries where astronomical research has been particularly influenced by John's research and teaching.

John is survived by his wife Rita and their four children Tim, Penny, Peter, and Lucy, and by seven grandchildren.

He was a most positive part of the academic community and of the lives of those of us who have been fortunate enough to know him.

Published: 12 February 2010