A Blast from the Past

I’ve just remembered that the annual STFC summer school for all new PhD Students in Astronomy finished last week. This year it was held in the fine city of Glasgow and I trust a fine time was had by all,  thanks both to the excellent astronomy staff there who organised the whole thing,  and to the eminent invited speakers who supplied specialist lectures.

When I was just about to start my PhD (or, more accurately, DPhil) in 1985 there was a summer school like this too only that was before STFC and even before its predecessor,  PPARC. The Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC)  summer school I went to was actually held at Durham University; we all stayed in St Mary’s College, just over the road from the Physics Department. I remember it well and indeed still have the notes I took during the lectures there.

Coincidentally, I recently unearthed this picture which has, unfortunately, been slightly damaged on the left  hand side. It might be interesting for all those who attended this year’s School to see how many of this group are still doing research 26 years later; the newbies may even be able to identify their PhD supervisors!

I’m in the middle with the Peter Beardsley haircut, and you can easily pick out a number of people who are still active in astronomy research, e.g. Melvin Hoare (Leeds), Moira Jardine (St Andrews), Alan Fitzsimmons (QUB), Steve Warren (Imperial), Alastair Edge (Durham), and Jon Loveday (Sussex), to name but a few. Anyone else see anyone they recognize? Or anyone else who was there happen to be reading this blog? Please do let me know through the comments box!

UPDATE: I’m grateful to Melvin for pointing out to me that Andy Norton has already posted a version of this picture elsewhere, with a much more complete list of identifications!

12 Responses to “A Blast from the Past”

  1. I think Andy Norton (OU) is there – wearing sunglasses in the back row.

  2. Steve Warren Says:

    The highlight of the week for me was a talk by Fred Hoyle, and a bit of an argy bargy afterwards when Tom Shanks asked him about non-cosmological redshifts.

    That’s Alan Watson on the far left at the front.

    • telescoper Says:

      I remember Hoyle’s lecture, which was truly bizarre. Amongst other ridiculous claims, was that there were few black tennis players because black people have poor hand-eye coordination. Nobody told the West Indies cricket team of that period that they had poor hand-eye coordination.

  3. I also remember Fred Hoyle’s talk but it was a sad reflection of his past glory.

    The other things that are etched on my memory are Ian Robson’s salmon pink suit, the disco of predominantly female radiologists and roast potatoes with every meal!

    I had the pleasure to host this “gig” in Durham 4 years ago and I hope the participants remember it as fondly as I remember our 2 weeks!

    I spy Neil Heydon-Dumbleton at the back just right of centre.

  4. I spotted my boss Graham Woan (Glasgow) in the centre left of the photo. I fowarded it on to him and he too recalled Fred Hoyle’s talk!

  5. It seems that quite a substantial fraction of the class of 1985 went on to successful careers in astronomy. I wonder what fraction of the class of 2011 will be as gifted (or dare I say as fortunate)…

  6. The male/female ratio has certainly improved since 1985…

  7. I was one of the ’eminent’ lecturers at Glasgow this year, and it brought back memories for me of the school I attended in 1980, in Cambridge, sponsored by SRC, the forerunner of SERC. It was hardcore astronomy- none of this planetary science stuff. I too still have my notes, but no photograph. If there is one, I’d love to see it. Mx

  8. telescoper Says:

    I just had a quick look through the notes from the Observational Cosmology lecture by Richard Ellis in 1985. Fascinating how much things have advanced, but also how many key questions are still really unanswered…

  9. Andrew Norton Says:

    I put the same photo online a few years ago (on the occasion of its 20th anniversary I think) – it’s still there at http://physics.open.ac.uk/~ajnorton/serc.html where I identified quite a few people at the time (some affiliations have moved on since!).

  10. Made me chuckle finding this online. Other than Hoyle and a verbal fight with Ted Turver, my overriding memory of this school was how difficult it was to find a decent curry in Durham. Trust things have improved in that regard since. (I’m two to your left)

  11. […] remember Arnold Wolfendale very well from many trips to Durham over the years, starting with the SERC School for new postgraduate students in Astronomy I attended in 1985. He was an avuncular and extremely friendly presence there who went to a lot of […]

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