Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Chandra Wickramasinghe

Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe (born 20 January 1939) is Professor of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy at Cardiff University and Director of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology. He was born in Sri Lanka, and currently lives in Cardiff, Wales, UK.

He was a student and collaborator of Sir Fred Hoyle. Their joint work on the infrared spectra of interstellar grains led to developing the modern theory of panspermia. This theory proposes that cosmic dust in interstellar space and in comets is partly organic, and that life on Earth was 'seeded' from space rather than arising through abiogenesis.

He is currently working on developing methods for detecting life processes in space.

"My most significant astronomical contribution was to develop the theory of organic grains in comets and in the interstellar medium. This was done during the 1970s and 80's, and it is now accepted by everyone almost without remembering its origins! I feel I also played a part in the birth of the science of astrobiology."

He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Astronomical Society, and has also won awards for his poetry

Professor Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe, BSc (Ceylon), MA, PhD, ScD (Cantab), Hon DSc (Sri Lanka, Ruhuna), Hon DLitt (Tokyo, Soka), FIMA, FRAS, FRSA
Director of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe was born in Sri Lanka and was educated at Royal College, Colombo and later at the University of Ceylon. In 1960 he obtained a First Class Honours degree in Mathematics and won a Commonwealth scholarship to proceed to Trinity College Cambridge.

He commenced work in Cambridge on his PhD degree under the supervision of the late Sir Fred Hoyle, and published his first scientific paper in 1961. He was awarded a PhD degree in Mathematics in 1963 and was elected a Fellow of Jesus College Cambridge in the same year. In the following year he was appointed a Staff Member of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. Here he began his pioneering work on the nature of Interstellar Dust, publishing many papers in this field that led to important paradigm shifts in astronomy. He published the very first definitive book on Interstellar Grains in 1967. In 1973 he was awarded Cambridge University’s highest doctorate for Science, the prestigious ScD.

Chandra Wickramasinghe is acknowledged as being one of the world’s leading experts on interstellar material and the origins of life. He has made many important contributions in this field, publishing over 350 papers in major scientific journals, over 75 in the high-impact journal Nature. In 1974 he first proposed the theory that dust in interstellar space and in comets was largely organic, a theory that has now been vindicated. Jointly with the late Sir Fred Hoyle he was awarded the International Dag Hammarskjold Gold Medal for Science in 1986.

Chandra Wickramasinghe was a UNDP Consultant and Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka in 1982-84, and played a key role in the setting up of the Institute of Fundamental Studies in Sri Lanka. In 1983/84 he was appointed the founder Director of the Institute of Fundamental Studies by President J.R. Jayawardene. In 1992 he was decorated by the President of Sri Lanka with the titular honour of Vidya Jyothi. He was awarded the International Sahabdeen Prize for Science in 1996.

In 1973 he was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Physics at University College, Cardiff, being the youngest Professor appointed at the University up to that time. He was responsible for starting an Astrophysics research group in Cardiff under the auspices of a new Department that was formed under his headship, the Department of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy. He remained Head of this Department until 1989 by which time the Astronomy Research School in Cardiff was regarded as being one of the best in the UK. From 1989-1999 he held the post of Professor of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy within a newly structured School of Mathematics at Cardiff University of Wales. In the year 2000 he was appointed Director of the newly formed Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology.
He is an award-winning poet and the author or co-author of over 25 books and over 350 scientific papers. He has held visiting professorial appointments in a large number of Universities world-wide. In recognition of his extensive contributions to science and culture he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Soka University of Tokyo, Japan in 1996.
He was the John Snow Memorial Lecturer and John Snow Medalist of the Association of Anesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland in 2004.

He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka in 2004.

On the 24th May 2003 The Lancet published a letter from Wickramasinghe, jointly signed by Milton Wainwright and Jayant Narlikar, which suggested that SARS could be extraterrestrial.

The letter is currently (December 2006) referenced on the Cardiff astrobiology website. It includes this claim:

With respect to the SARS outbreak, a prima facie case for a possible space incidence can already be made...

A small amount of the culprit virus introduced into the stratosphere could make a first tentative fall out East of the great mountain range of the Himalayas, where the stratosphere is thinnest, followed by sporadic deposits in neighbouring areas.

The publication of this letter generated a certain amount of coverage in news media, including the BBC and National Geographic magazine.

Honors & Awards
He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Soka University of Tokyo, Japan in 1996.
He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka in 2004.

Arp, H.C., Burbidge, G., Hoyle, F., Narlikar, J.V. and Wickramasinghe, N.C., The extragalactic universe: an alternative view, Nature 346:807–812, August 30, 1990.
Hoyle, F. and Wickramasinghe N.C., Lifecloud - The Origin of Life in the Universe, Pub. J.M. Dent and Sons, 1978. ISBN 0-460-04335-8
Wickramasinghe, N.C. and Ikeda D., Space and Eternal Life, 1998; ISBN 1-85172-060-X. (Also available in Japanese).
Fred Hoyle & Chandra Wickramasinghe, "Our Place In The Cosmos", Life Did Not Begin On Earth - It Arrived From Space And Is Still Arriving ISBN 1-85799-433-7 J M Dent Ltd,Phoenix Publications 1993


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