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Bernie Fanaroff awarded prestigious Jansky Lectureship

- Wits University

The Wits alumnus is among a select group, including seven Nobel laureates, who have received this honour.

In a statement on 29 June 2017, the Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) said Dr Fanaroff was awarded the 2017 Jansky Lectureship for his exceptional contributions to radio astronomy and his unparalleled leadership through public service.

He is specifically recognised for his work with the South African Square Kilometer Array Radio Telescope Project (SKA). The Jansky Lectureship was established in 1966 by the trustees of the AUI to recognise outstanding contributions to the advancement of radio astronomy and to promote the appreciation of the science of radio astronomy through public lectures. It is named in honour of Karl G. Jansky, who discovered radio waves emanating from the central region of the Milky Way galaxy, which ultimately launched the science of radio astronomy.

Fanaroff's academic and professional career started as an undergraduate at Wits where he first obtained his BSc Physics degree and in 1967 was awarded his BSc (Hons) in Theoretical Physics. He joined Wits again in 1974 as a lecturer in the Physics Department until the end of 1976.

In 2013 Wits conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree on Fanaroff, not only for his tremendous contribution to radio astronomy but also for the pivotal role he as played in the trade union movement and the struggle for freedom during the height of apartheid in the 1980s.

Dr Bernie Fanaroff, Wits alumnus and former director of the SKA SA. © SKA SA

As part of the Jansky award, Fanaroff will give lectures later this year at the NRAO facilities in Charlottesville, Virginia (25 October 2017) and Socorro, New Mexico (3 November 2017). He also will give a lecture at the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) in West Virginia (27 October 2017). His talk will be titled: Observing the Universe from Africa: Linking radio astronomy and development.

Fanaroff also holds a PhD in radio astronomy from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. He also is recognised for the Fanaroff-Riley classification of radio galaxies and quasars, which was published in 1974 and is still in use today.

Among his many accomplishments and awards are honorary doctorates from six South African universities, including Wits University, and the South African National Order of Mapungubwe.

Prior to his most recent positions as co-chair of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Working Group on ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and High Performance Computing, and a member of the Advisory Committee of the Breakthrough Listen project, Fanaroff also held numerous public service positions in South Africa. These positions include the Deputy Director General of President Mandela’s office and head of the Office for the Reconstruction and Development Program, Deputy Director General of Safety and Security, Chairman of the Integrated Justice System Board, and Chairman of the Inter-Departmental Steering Committee for Border Control. He also was the National Organiser and National Secretary of the Metal and Allied Workers Union and then of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.

Other recipients of the Jansky award include seven Nobel laureates — Drs Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Edward Purcell, Charles Townes, Arno Penzias, Robert Wilson, William Fowler, and Joseph Taylor — as well as noted astronomers Jocelyn Bell-Burnell and Vera Rubin