(Almost) Fifty Years of Astronomy at Sussex
I came across this booklet earlier this morning, whereupon I realised that Thirty is about to turn into Fifty…
The date on the front of the booklet is November 1996, but inside it explains that the content is based on a seminar given at Sussex about a year earlier. In fact the first MSc students in Astronomy started in October 1965. However, they were all part-time students (they were all staff at the Royal Greenwich Observatory which at that time was in Herstmonceux, Sussex) and none graduated until 1967. The 40th anniversary of that graduation was recognized with an event in 2007. The first full-time staff astronomer arrived in 1966, along with the first full-time MSc students. The first MSc students to graduate did so in 1967.
In fact I joined the Astronomy Centre at Sussex as a DPhil student in October 1985, 20 years after the arrival of the first cohort.
It’s interesting to note that originally astronomy existed at Sussex only as a postgraduate course. The attitude in most Universities in those days was that students should learn all the necessary physics before applying it to astronomy. Over the years this has changed, and most departments offer some astronomy right from Year 1. I think this change has been for the better because I think the astronomical setting provides a very exciting context to learn physics. If you want to understand, say, the structure of the Sun you have to include atomic physics, nuclear physics, gravity, thermodynamics, radiative transfer and hydrostatics all at the same time. This sort of thing makes astrophysics a good subject for developing synthetic skills while more traditional physics teaching focusses almost exclusively on analytical skills.
Anyway, I’m now left with a quandary. Should Fifty Years of Astronomy at Sussex be celebrated in 2015, 2016 or 2017?
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