Ronald N. Bracewell bigraphy, stories - Astronomers

Ronald N. Bracewell : biography

22 July 1921 - 12 August 2007

Ronald Newbold Bracewell AO (22 July 1921 – 12 August 2007) was the Lewis M. Terman Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus of the Space, Telecommunications and Radioscience Laboratory at Stanford University.

Selected publications

  • Bracewell, R.N. and Pawsey, J.L., Radio Astronomy (Oxford, 1955) (also translated into Russian and reprinted in China)
  • Bracewell, R.N., Radio Interferometry of Discrete Sources (Proceedings of the IRE, January 1958)
  • Bracewell, Ronald N., ed., Paris Symposium on Radio Astronomy, IAU Symposium no. 9 and URSI Symposium no. 1, held 30 July 1958 – 6 August 1958 (Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, CA, 1959) (also translated into Russian)
  • Professor Bracewell translated Radio Astronomy, by J.L. Steinberg and J. Lequeux, (McGraw-Hill, 1963) from French
  • Bracewell, R.N., The Fourier Transform and Its Applications (McGraw-Hill, 1965, 2nd ed. 1978, revised 1986) (also translated into Japanese and Polish)
  • Bracewell, R.N., Trees on the Stanford Campus (Stanford: Samizdat, 1973)
  • Bracewell, R.N., The Galactic Club: Intelligent Life in Outer Space (Portable Stanford: Alumni Association, 1974) (also translated into Dutch, Japanese, and Italian)
  • Bracewell, R.N., The Hartley Transform (Oxford University Press, 1986) (also translated into German and Russian)
  • Bracewell, R.N., Two-Dimensional Imaging (Prentice-Hall, 1995)
  • Bracewell, R.N., Fourier Analysis and Imaging (Plenum, 2004)
  • Bracewell, R.N., Trees of Stanford and Environs (Stanford Historical Society, 2005)

Contributions and honours

Professor Bracewell was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (1950), Fellow and life member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (1961), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1989), and was a Fellow with other significant societies and organisations.

For experimental contributions to the study of the ionosphere by means of very low frequency waves, Dr. Bracewell received the Duddell Premium of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, London in 1952. In 1992 he was elected to foreign associate membership of the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1992), the first Australian to achieve that distinction, for fundamental contributions to medical imaging. He was one of Sydney University's three honourees when alumni awards were instituted in 1992, with a citation for brain scanning, and was the 1994 recipient of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers' Heinrich Hertz medal for pioneering work in antenna aperture synthesis and image reconstruction as applied to radio astronomy and to computer-assisted tomography. In 1998 Dr. Bracewell was named Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for service to science in the fields of radio astronomy and image reconstruction.

At CSIRO Radiophysics Laboratory, work that in 1942-1945 was classified appeared in a dozen reports. Activities included design, construction, and demonstration of voice-modulation equipment for a 10 cm magnetron (July 1943), a microwave triode oscillator at 25 cm using cylindrical cavity resonators, equipment designed for microwave radar in field use (wavemeter, echo box, thermistor power meter, etc.) and microwave measurement technique. Experience with numerical computation of fields in cavities led, after the war, to a Master of Engineering degree (1948) and the definitive publication on step discontinuities in radial transmission lines (1954).

While at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge (1946–1950) Bracewell worked on observation and theory of upper atmospheric ionisation, contributing to experimental technique (1948), explaining solar effects (1949), and distinguishing two layers below the E-layer (1952), work recognised by the Duddell Premium.

At Stanford Professor Bracewell constructed a microwave spectroheliograph (1961), a large and complex radio telescope which produced daily temperature maps of the sun reliably for eleven years, the duration of a solar cycle. The first radio telescope to give output automatically in printed form, and therefore capable of worldwide dissemination by teleprinter, its daily solar weather maps received acknowledgement from NASA for support of the first manned landing on the moon.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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