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2017 Jansky Lecturer: Dr. Bernard Fanaroff

by Davis Murphy last modified Aug 09, 2017

Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) have awarded the 2017 Karl G. Jansky Lectureship to Dr. Bernie Fanaroff, recently retired from the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) South Africa. The Jansky Lectureship is an honor established by the trustees of AUI to recognize outstanding contributions to the advancement of radio astronomy.

Dr. Fanaroff, as the 2017 Jansky Lecturer, is being recognized for his exceptional contributions to radio astronomy and his unparalleled leadership through public service. He will present his Lecture – Observing the Universe from Africa: Linking Radio Astronomy and Development – on the following dates at these AUI-managed research facilities:

NRAO – Charlottesville, VA Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Green Bank Observatory, WV Friday, 27 October 2017
NRAO – Socorro, NM  Friday, 3 November 2017

Fanaroff was the project director of the South African Square Kilometer Array telescope project from its inception in 2003 until the end of 2015; he remains a part-time adviser on the project. Fanaroff is also the co-chair of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Working Group on ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and High Performance Computing. He is also a member of the advisory committee of the Breakthrough Listen project. 

Fanaroff obtained a degree in theoretical physics at University of Witwatersrand in South Africa in 1970 and a doctorate in radio astronomy from Cambridge University, UK, in 1974. He also holds honorary doctorates from six South African universities and is a visiting professor in physics at Oxford University. While at Cambridge, he and fellow scientist Julia Riley developed a classification system for very distant radio sources, the Fanaroff-Riley class I and II, which is still used today.

Among his many honors, Fanaroff has been awarded the national Order of Mapungubwe, South Africa's highest honor. He has served on the boards of Eskom SOC and the South African National Biodiversity Institute. 

Fanaroff has held many posts in the South African government. In 1994, he was appointed Deputy Director General in the Office of President Mandela and the Head of the Office for the Reconstruction and Development Programme. He also served as the Deputy Director General of Safety and Security, Chairman of the Integrated Justice System Board, and Chairman of the Inter-Departmental Steering Committee for Border Control. He was for eighteen years National Organiser and National Secretary of the Metal and Allied Workers Union and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.  

This is the fifty-second Jansky Lectureship. First awarded in 1966, it is named in honor of the man who, in 1932, first detected radio waves from a cosmic source. Karl Jansky's discovery of radio waves from the central region of the Milky Way started the science of radio astronomy. Other recipients of the Jansky award include seven Nobel laureates (Drs. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Edward Purcell, Charles Townes, Arno Penzias, Robert Wilson, William Fowler, and Joseph Taylor) as well as Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, discoverer of the first pulsar, and Vera Rubin, discoverer of dark matter in galaxies.