Brown, Robert Hanbury

Brown, Robert Hanbury
▪ 2003

      British astronomer (b. Aug. 31, 1916, Aravankadu, India—d. Jan. 16, 2002, Andover, Hampshire, Eng.), overcame scientific hurdles and the skepticism of his colleagues in the 1950s to invent the optical intensity spectrometer, a telescopic instrument that measures the sizes of stars. After showing how to determine the angular diameter of radio-emitting stars by collecting their signals at two widely separated dish antennas and combining them properly, he reapplied the technique to light from the star Sirius, using two handmade optical telescopes. He then constructed a more powerful optical intensity spectrometer, with R.Q. Twiss, in Narrabri, N.S.W., Australia, where he measured some 30 stars between 1963 and 1972. Brown recounted his pioneering work in his autobiography, Boffin: A Personal Story of the Early Days of Radar, Radio Astronomy and Quantum Optics (1991). After graduating from the University of London in 1935, Brown assisted in secret work to perfect military uses for radar, which continued through World War II. In 1949 he began studying under Sir Bernard Lovell of Manchester University at the Jodrell Bank Observatory. It was there, with several colleagues, that Brown achieved his first successes with his radio and optical measurements of stars. The opportunity to construct a larger optical intensity spectrometer led him to leave his professorship at Manchester (1960–63) for one at the University of Sydney (1964–81).

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▪ British astronomer
born August 31, 1916, Aruvankadu, India
died January 16, 2002, Andover, Hampshire, England

      British astronomer and writer noted for his design, development, and use of the intensity interferometer.

      Brown graduated from the University of London in 1935. During and after World War II he worked with Robert Alexander Watson-Watt (Watson-Watt, Sir Robert Alexander) and then E.G. Bowen to develop radar and its uses in aerial combat. In the 1950s he applied his experience with radar to radio astronomy, developing radio telescope technology at Jodrell Bank Observatory and mapping radio sources in the sky. This work led him to design a radio interferometer capable of resolving radio stars while eliminating atmospheric distortion from the image (1952). With Richard Q. Twiss, Brown applied the principles of radio interferometry to measuring the angular size of bright visible stars, thus developing the technique of intensity interferometry. Brown and Twiss set up an intensity interferometer at Narrabri in New South Wales, Australia, for the measuring of hot stars. From 1964 to 1981 Brown was a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Sydney. He later served as president (1982–85) of the International Astronomical Union. His major books include The Exploration of Space by Radio (1957; with A.C.B. Lovell), The Intensity Interferometer (1974), and Man and the Stars (1978). His autobiography, Boffin, was published in 1991.

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Universalium. 2010.

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