The Road To Pulsars: A Radioastronomer Gets His Start

[Editor’s note: Born in Cornwall in 1924, the son of a bank manager and a farmer’s daughter, Antony Hewish always enjoyed doing things with his hands. As a boy, he made models, gunpowder, and fireworks; decades later, he put his skills to good use helping to build and maintain some of the early radiotelescopes. When Hewish first started listening for radio signals from space, radioastronomy was an unfashionable field. But it soon became glamorous—and Hewish’s pioneerin

Antony Hewish
Apr 2, 1989

[Editor’s note: Born in Cornwall in 1924, the son of a bank manager and a farmer’s daughter, Antony Hewish always enjoyed doing things with his hands. As a boy, he made models, gunpowder, and fireworks; decades later, he put his skills to good use helping to build and maintain some of the early radiotelescopes. When Hewish first started listening for radio signals from space, radioastronomy was an unfashionable field. But it soon became glamorous—and Hewish’s pioneering experiments were among the prime reasons for the change. Working at Cambridge University, Hewish startled astronomers in 1967 with his discovery of the pulsating radio stars now known as pulsars, an exploit that won him a share (with Martin Ryle of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory) of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics. It was a major event in the history of science—the first time that astronomers had been honored for a contribution to physics.

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