2009 Payne-Gaposchkin medal and prize
Professor Eric Priest
St Andrews University
For his numerous major contributions to many of the unsolved problems in solar physics, including magnetic reconnection, coronal heating, phasing-mixing of MHD waves and solar flares.
Eric Priest is a world leader in solar physics. During the last 40 years, he has built up the Solar Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) Group at St Andrews University from nothing to a group consisting of 8 permanent staff, 6 postdoctoral researchers and 15 research students. Thirty-four former group members now hold tenured university teaching positions.
His research has focussed on the fundamental physical processes at work in the solar corona. Often driven by new outstanding observations, he has provided the community with a theoretical description of many solar phenomena, such as coronal heating mechanisms through both the damping of MHD waves and the dissipation of many small-scale current sheets. His work on magnetic reconnection, firstly in 2D and latterly in 3D, has been the driver for a worldwide effort on this complex topic.
His research monograph, Solar MHD, is the recognised textbook for all researchers in theoretical solar physics and it has been translated into Russian and Chinese. In addition, he has co-authored Magnetic Reconnection a book which provides a comprehensive summary of all aspects of the fundamental physical processes of magnetic reconnection.