'The minor planets committee named asteroid 15,727 in his honour'

August 17, 2007

'Dark skies' and solar eclipses are on the agenda for new Gresham professor of astronomy Ian Morison.

A "gentle introduction to Einstein's theory of gravity" is among a series of lectures promised by Ian Morison in his new role as Gresham professor of astronomy.

Einstein's conclusions are being tested to extreme accuracy by astronomers at Manchester University's Jodrell Bank Observatory, where Professor Morison has worked for the past 37 years.

As a professor at Gresham College, which exists to offer free public lectures, he will join a line of academics stretching back more than 400 years, including Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees and Sir Christopher Wren. "This is one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me. It is a lovely way to end my career," said Professor Morison, 63.

He anticipates that his new position will play a major role in his professional life over the next three years. In addition to his Einstein lecture, his plans include a lecture on changes in our understanding of the universe over the centuries, leading an astronomy weekend at a "dark sky" location in the Cotswolds and a trip to northern China to observe a total eclipse of the sun.

Professor Morison's love of astronomy began at the age of 12 when he made a telescope out of lenses given to him by an optician. Later he won a place at Hertford College, Oxford, reading physics, maths and astronomy. In 1970 he became a research student at Jodrell Bank.

Four years ago, the Minor Planets Committee of the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 15,7 in his honour, citing his work with Merlin, the world's largest linked array of radio telescopes, as well as the search for intelligent life beyond our solar system in Project Phoenix.

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