[STSP] Passing of Paul Wild, Australian pioneer in solar radio physics

Phil Wilkinson phil at ips.gov.au
Wed Jun 4 16:01:27 EST 2008

Dear All,

as you will read below, Paul Wild recently passed away. He was hugely
influential for many Australian scientists with interests in space 
physics, particularly solar radio physics and the associated plasma
physics. The obituary below is from Mukul Kundu, himself a pioneer in
solar radio physics, in the newsletter SolarNews.

Best wishes,


Paul Wild: A great pioneer in Solar Radio Astronomy passes away
      Mukul Kundu
      22 May 2008
The second winner of the Hale Prize, John Paul Wild, passed
away on May 10 in Canberra, Australia. He was born in England in 1923 and
was educated at the University of Cambridge, graduating from there in 1943
and later receiving his ScD degree there. Like many of his contemporary
scientists he served as an officer in the Royal Navy during
the war, working on radar. At the end of the war in 1947 he
joined the CSIRO (Australia's national research organization) Division of
Radiophysics in Sydney, headed by Dr Joseph Pawsey. This
Sydney laboratory was one of the
two institutions (the other being Cambridge)
engaged in pioneering development of radio astronomy
techniques using radio receivers adapted from war-time radar sets.
By that time Hey's discovery of the Sun's radio emissions,
made with radar equipment during the war, was
published and significant work on solar radio bursts had been
started by Pawsey, Payne-Scott and others in the Sydney
group. Specifically, it was found from single-frequency observations
that certain radio bursts showed a delay in onset with decreasing
frequency. However since this was not a universal phenomenon, Wild decided
that the
next step in this research was to develop a radiospectrograph to record
the intensity of solar radio emission as a continuous function
of frequency and time. Thus a radiospectrograph was born in
1949, in the frequency range 40-70 MHz, which was later extended up
to 220 MHz. With this radiospectrograph Wild and his colleagues
discovered and distinguished different types of radio bursts
to which they gave the labels still in use today: bursts of
Type I, II, III and V (Type IV belongs to the French group).
They also established the interpretations of Type III bursts
as due to beams of accelerated electrons, and Type II bursts as the
first evidence for the occurrence of shocks in the solar
atmosphere. Because of the radiospectrograph, the Australian group
dominated the field of solar radio astronomy at meter wavelengths in the

Wild soon realized that in order to understand the origin
of solar bursts, besides using plasma physics, one had to build
an imaging system. Thus the Culgoora RadioHeliograph was built,
initially operating at 80 MHz and later extended to 40, 160 and 327
MHz. This was the first two-dimensional imaging system built for
viewing the radio Sun; it was also the first circular array
built in radio astronomy. It was operational from 1967 to 1984 and was
responsible for the continued prominence of Australian solar
radio astronomy.

Paul Wild earned many honors and laurels. These include
the Hale Prize in 1980. He was a fellow of the Royal
Society, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences. He became the Chief of the Radiophysics Division of
CSIRO from 1971-78 and then Chairman of the entire CSIRO from 1978
to 1985. Besides doing solar radio physics, he was involved in doing
other innovative projects. In particular, he led the CSIRO team
that developed the Interscan Aircraft Landing System that was
adopted as the international standard for instrument landing
in 1978. As Chairman of CSIRO he was instrumental in
establishing the Australia Telescope at Culgoora, which is a
VLA-like facility for cosmic observations of the southern
skies. After retiring from CSIRO, he led a
high-profile consortium trying to bring high-speed trains to

Finally, a personal note. I had known Paul Wild for more
than 40 years. It is hard to find a kinder and gentler person. To
me he was always a good and inspiring friend as he was to all
his colleagues and co-workers.

Mukul Kundu, University of Maryland.

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