Rest in Peace, Rod Davies


Rod Davies (left) together with Sir Bernard Lovell (right)

I heard sad news today of the death at the age of 85 of distinguished radio astronomer Prof. Rod Davies CBE FRS, who was Professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Manchester. He was the President of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1987 to 1989, and the Director of Jodrell Bank Observatory for the period 1988-97.

I first met Rod Davies when, as a graduate student, I attended a talk he gave on the Cosmic Microwave Background, a subject that became one of my main research interests. The field has changed greatly over the thirty years between then and now, but I still remember his colloquium because it was so clearly explained and so balanced in the way he discussed work of his own group and that of the competition. I also remember his friendliness, even when asked idiotic questions by an ignorant PhD student (me). I’ve met him many times since and he has always behaved in the same way: kind, courteous and principled – a really nice man. Few people combine eminence in their field with such humility and good grace. My sincere condolences go to his loved ones, friends, and colleagues. He will be greatly missed.

R.I.P. Rod Davies (1930-2015). Radioastronomer and gentleman.


7 Responses to “Rest in Peace, Rod Davies”

  1. He will be missed. Rod was still very active in the Planck research team and continued to come in to work until a month or so ago. He was still as you describe him, and also always supportive. You could say ‘liked by friends and enemies’ but I would find it hard to believe there were any of the latter! Much of the current research at Jodrell Bank came from Rod’s vision.

  2. Phillip Helbig Says:

    He was director at Jodrell Bank when I arrived; during my stay there, the directorship passed to Andrew Lyne. Despite the existence of one paper on which we are both authors, I didn’t have much direct interaction with him, but his presence was hard to overlook, even after he had retired.

    I remember once, as we were walking into work, a student was considering whether to stay in astronomy or get a proper job, so that he could, for example, drive a BMW. I pointed to Rod’s car and asked, why not both?

  3. As one of Rod’s granddaughters I just wanted to say how touching this post was. So great to read how he positively influenced the lives of so many around him, and I wholeheartedly share your view that he was such a humble and gentle man as well as a fantastic scientist. How lucky we were to know him!

    • Graham Elford Says:

      Dear Hannah/Hettie,

      I have just read your loving comments about your Grandfather, Professor Rod Davies in the In the Dark blog.

      My name is Graham Elford, and I first met Rod when he was a Physics student at the University of Adelaide. Rod was a little over three years older than me, and by the time he took the Honours Physics course in 1950 I had been appointed a Lecturer in Physics. It was during that year that I got to know your grandfather very well.

      Our subsequent contacts were rather rare. The last was in 2000 when we both attended the 24th Assembly of the International Astronomy Union held during August at Manchester. Many years ago I also became a radio astronomer, studying meteors in the Solar System, and during the occasion of the Assembly Rod arranged for all Australian astronomers present to meet Bernard Lovell at an afternoon tea at your grandparent’s home.

      I noticed in the Dark blog, the comments from the minister of the Wilmslow Methodist Church. I was particularly interested as my wife is a retired Minister of Religion in the Uniting Church in South Australia and in her younger days was a Deaconess in the Methodist Church in Australia (now incorporated in the Uniting Church). During 1962 and 1963 she was appointed to Naracoorte and lived close to Rod’s parents, Rena and Bob. There she heard about their brilliant son but never met him.

      I doubt whether there are many in the Uniting Church in South Australia who know of your grandfather’s lifelong association with the Methodist Church, commencing in the Grace Plains Methodist Church (now closed) in South Australia. I am about to put together a brief story about your grandfather in the monthly paper of the South Australia Uniting Church.

      I need a few more details about Rod’s early life. Do you think you could help?

      Graham Elford

  4. Rev Charles New Says:

    May I be permitted a comment from a different perspective? I served for a number of years as minister of the Methodist Church where Rod and Beth were members. Such was Rod’s demeanour that none would suspect we had such an eminent scientist in the congregation. Rod’s enthusiasm for his subject was infectious and so too was his ability to embrace science and faith and, when asked, to explain why both were important to him. Scientific community and faith community have much to be thankful for. Radioastronormer and Christian gentleman indeed.

  5. I too keep discovering what an exceptional man my husband was. Science and religion, gardening and bees, love and kindness. he so enjoyed life. Never wasted a moment.

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