Director, Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology
University of Buckingham, UK
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe was born in Sri Lanka in 1939 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 first definitive book on Interstellar Grains in 1967. In 1973 he was awarded Cambridge University’s highest doctorate for Science, the ScD. Chandra Wickramasinghe is acknowledged as a leading expert on interstellar material and the origins of life. He has made many important contributions in these fields, publishing over 350 papers in major scientific journals, over 75 in the 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 upto 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 has 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. In 2006 he retired from the Professorship of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy, but continued as Professor and Director of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology. In 2007 he was appointed Honorary Professor at Glamorgan University. He became Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology in 2011 and is an Honorary Professor at the University.
He is an award-winning poet and the author or co-author of over 30 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 awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by the Unversity of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka in 2004.
In addition to giving many endowed lectures at Universities worldwide, he was the John Snow Memorial Lecturer and John Snow Medallist of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland in 2004. In 2005 he was named in the first annual Asian Power 100, a list of the most influential Asians living in the UK.
Interstellar Matter, Infrared Astronomy, Light Scattering Theory, Applications of Solid State Theory to Astronomy, The early Solar System, Comets, Astrochemistry and the Origins of Life, Astrobiology, Panspermia, History of Science