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Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale (1927-2020)

Best known for his work on the origins of cosmic rays, this former IOP president also published work on gamma rays, solar and geomagnetic variation, and cosmology.


Former president of the IOP (1994-96), Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale died aged 93 on 21 December 2020. 

He was the 14th Astronomer Royal and held the chair of physics at Durham University. 

Best known for his work on the origins of cosmic rays, he also published work on gamma rays, solar and geomagnetic variation, and cosmology. Wolfendale graduated with a BSc in physics from the University of Manchester in 1948 where he stayed on as an assistant lecturer, completing his doctorate in 1953. 

He then moved to Durham University in 1956 where he later became head of physics and continued as emeritus professor of physics when he retired from teaching in 1992. 

He was dedicated to promoting better public understanding of science and lectured widely to both scientific and non-scientific audiences.

Wolfendale was also president of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1981 to 1983 and later became Astronomer Royal from 1991 to 1995, where he worked to promote astronomy and campaigned for better funding for all the sciences. 

In 1995 he was knighted and appointed as the professor of experimental physics at the Royal Institution. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society, elected in 1977.

Survived by his wife Dorothy Middleton and his two sons from his first marriage to Audrey Darby, he will be sorely missed. Wolfendale was an eminent thinker and advisor on astronomical matters. 

He leaves behind a legacy of knowledge that has changed how we view our galaxy.