Oxford rocked by death of physicist

The vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford has said academics at the institution have been left “profoundly saddened and shocked” by the death of a professor of astrophysics.

January 13, 2012

The body of Steven Rawlings, a “well respected and liked” astrophysicist and member of St Peter’s College, was found at a house in Southmoor, Oxfordshire, on 11 January.

According to media reports, the property is the home of a fellow academic at the university, mathematics lecturer Devinder Sivia, a member of St John’s College.

A 49-year-old man – reported to be Dr Sivia - was arrested on suspicion of murder, but has since been released on police bail.

Detectives have said that the death may be "a matter for a coroner's inquest rather than a criminal court".

Professor Rawlings, a leading academic in the field of radioastronomy, and Dr Sivia – who are said to be good friends - co-authored a book together entitled the Foundations of Science Mathematics, which was published in 1999.

“The entire university community has been profoundly saddened and shocked by the tragic and untimely death of Professor Steve Rawlings. Our thoughts are with his family and friends,” vice-chancellor Andrew Hamilton says in a statement.

Mark Damazer, master of St Peter’s College, where Professor Rawlings was a fellow and tutor in physics, said he had undertaken his undergraduate and doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge, and remained there to do post-doctoral work prior to moving to Oxford.

“He was one of the lead scientists in the international Square Kilometre Array project and also played a prominent role in the redevelopment of the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall as a radio astronomy facility,” he said.

“He was a much liked and admired tutor and colleague within the college and will be greatly missed. We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife Linda.”

Detective Superintendent Rob Mason, from Thames Valley Police, said: “We are liaising closely with Oxford University and it is apparent that he was well respected and liked within the college and colleagues and students have been devastated by the news.”

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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