Astronomer Royal recalls how youth in Shropshire helped him on road to cosmic achievements

One of the world's most eminent scientists has recalled his youth growing up in rural Shropshire in an hour-long TV interview.

Astronomer Royal Martin Rees
Astronomer Royal Martin Rees

Lord Rees of Ludlow celebrated his 80th birthday on June 23 and was interviewed in a hour-long special edition of the long-running astronomy programme The Sky At Night.

Astronomer Royal Martin Rees was born in York in 1942 and after the war he and his teacher parents settled in a rural part of Shropshire near the border with Wales. There, his parents founded Bedstone College. From the age of 13 he was educated at Shrewsbury School and is proudly remembered as an Old Salopian.

Lord Rees told Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott that as a child he was not into astronomy but used to wonder at the tides when he went on holiday to North Wales. He wondered why the tides came at different times around the island of Anglesey.

He specialised in science and maths at school but admitted he was "lazy about languages."

But he became perhaps Britain’s most renowned cosmologist and helped end the scientific argument about whether there was a 'Big Bang' kick start for the universe or whether the universe was in a steady state.

Lord Rees's work on quasars - active centres of galaxies - helped deal the fatal blow in favour of the Big Bang.

Lord Rees became master of Trinity College, Cambridge, president of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Physics, and has led the nation’s foremost science institution, the Royal Society.

He was also a contemporary of Stephen Hawking and witnessed at first hand the excitement of seeing black holes elevated from a speculative concept to an integral part of our universe’s evolution.

A statement from the Sky at Night said: "One of science’s most celebrated thinkers and writers, Rees has never been shy of engaging with difficult concepts.

"While the ‘big bang’ solved the question of our origin story, it also raises other questions such as ‘what was there before the big bang?’, and Rees enjoys considering the possibility that there are other universes, perhaps with the properties of our universe that gave rise to us, or perhaps wholly or partially different.

"Lord Rees also discusses the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, noting that while complex life may arise or has arisen in the universe, the likelihood is that, given the massive timescales involved, we are almost guaranteed to co-exist. But this leads to the intriguing prospect that any intelligent civilisation, including our own, is likely to create artificial intelligences that will supersede us and may well be near-immortal."

The programme adds: "While Lord Rees worries about the threats that AI (artificial intelligence) and the misuse of technology poses to our civilisation, he sees a potentially bright future in terms of scientific discovery, citing international collaborations and technological advances that might see us answering some of the questions we consider today to be too difficult - like the start of the universe and black holes used to be not so long ago."

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News