Ronald David Ekers was born at Victor Harbour, South Australia on 18 September 1941.
He obtained his BSc in 1962, his BSc (Hons) in 1963, both from the University of Adelaide, South Australia and his PhD from the Australian National University, ACT, in 1967. His PhD research was carried out at CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope under the supervision of Dr John Bolton the first Director of the Parke’s Radio Observatory.
Professor Ekers has held positions in several countries. After gaining his PhD from the Australian National University in 1967, he was a Post Doctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology from 1967 to 1970; a Visiting Astronomer at the the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in Cambridge UK (1970-71); a Research Astronomer (1971-76) and full Professor (1976-80) at the Kapteyn Laboratory in Groningen, The Netherlands; and Assistant Director at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, New Mexico, USA (1980-88).
He was the first Director of the Very Large Array, the major national radio telescope in the USA, from 1980 until 1988, when he returned to Australia and CSIRO to become the Foundation Director of the Australia Telescope National Facility. He continued in this role until receiving a Federation Fellowship in 2003.
Other positions held include: Visiting Scientist CSIRO, 1978; Visiting Fellow, Australian National University 1979; Adjunct Professor, University of New Mexico, (USA) 1981-88; Personal External Chair in Radio Astronomy, University of Groningen, (Netherlands) 1983-85; Adjunct Professor, Australian National University from 1989 to 2005; Honorary Fellow University of Western Sydney, Nepean 1993-95; Visiting Miller Professor, University of California, Berkeley, USA from 2001 to 2002 and Adjunct Professor at Curtin University, Western Australia in 2007.
His international career has been distinguished by numerous contributions to radio astronomy and radio astronomical techniques. Professor Ekers’ research interests include extragalactic astronomy, galactic nuclei (the centres of galaxies), and the techniques of radio astronomy. A hallmark of his career has been wide-ranging, innovative experiments involving the Sun, Moon, planets, stars, galaxies, quasars and the cosmic microwave background. He made the first measurements of the gravitational deflection of radio waves (demonstrating the predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity) and discovered the hot gas that spirals around the nucleus of our Galaxy ‘ the first sign of what is now thought to be a black hole millions of times the mass of the Sun. Professor Ekers is currently planning an experiment to detect high-energy cosmic neutrinos from the radio waves they create when they hit the Moon.
As President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Ron was responsible for the new definition of a planet and the subsequent reclassification of Pluto as a dwarf planet.
He has been heavily involved in all aspects of the International proposal to build a Square Kilometer Array (SKA) a future radio telescope which may be located in Western Australia.
Since 2003, Ron’s main research area (as a Federation Fellow) has involved the understanding of the evolution of the very early universe. His specialty is to devise experiments which exploit modern technology in unusual ways. This has resulted in his involvement in two major efforts, both leading teams which make heavy use of CSIRO resources:
- to make a short wavelength (1cm) radio survey of the whole southern sky. This is particularly sensitive to galaxies with active black holes in there nuclei.
- a search for ultra high energy neutrinos using radio telescopes to look for the pulse of Cerenkov emission when they hit the moon.
In the period 1990-2009 he had supervised 17 PhD Students in the following topics:
- Dynamics & Excitation of Extended Emission-line Regions in Radio Galaxies
- Distribution of Matter in Clusters of Galaxies
- The FIR-RC Correlation.
- U Sydney:
- The Galactic Centre
- Galaxies at High Redshift
- Magnetic Fields in the Local Universe
- Gas in the Universe
- 20GHz Survey
- Properties of 20GHz survey sources.
- U Adelaide:
- Cluster Magnetic Fields
- UHE Neutrino ‘ Lunar Cerenkov Emission.
- U Melbourne: UHE Neutrino ‘ Signal Processing.
- UNSW: Gravitational Lens Search
- UWS: Radio Sample of X-ray Sources
- U Cardif: The Bivariate Luminosity Distribution
- High-Frequency Properties of Extragalactic Radio Sources
- Observations of the Large Scale Structure of Magnetic Fields in the Local Universe.
By 2009, he had a total of 365 publications including 173 in refereed journals, 115 Conference Proceedings, 3 Book chapters, 1 Book and 17 other publications. His work has been cited 7383 times for an H index of 47. For details of the H index see Ball P, 2005, ‘Index aims for fair ranking of scientists’, Nature, 436: 900. [external link]
Honours and awards
For his contributions to astronomy he has received many honours and awards including:
Fellowships and foreign memberships
|2005||Fellow of Royal Society of London|
|2003||Fellow American Philosophical Society|
|2002||Federation Fellow (Australia)|
|1993||Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science|
|1993||Foreign Member, Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences|
|1988||Associate of the Royal Astronomical Society|
|2008||Grand public lecture, 2nd Astronomy & Astrophysics Olympiad ‘ Bandung (Indonesia)|
|2004||Jansky Lecturer ‘ NRAO (USA)|
|1999||Brodie Hall Lecture ‘ Perth (Australia)|
|1997||Robert Ellery Lectureship, Astronomical Society of Australia|
|1995||Pesek Lecture ‘ Oslo (Norway)|
|1990||Pawsey Lecturer, Melbourne (Australia)|
|1986||Sigma Xi Society Centennial Lecturer (USA)|
|2008||Recorded Oral History Interview for the National Library of Australia|
|2005||Flinders Medal (Australian Academy of Science)|
|2003||President, International Astronomical Union|
|2001||Centenary Medal (Australia)|
|2001||Visiting Miller Professor, University of California, Berkeley (USA)|
|1997||Oort Visiting Chair, Leiden, The Netherlands|
Board and other memberships
|2007 – 2011||Australian Academy of Science Council|
|2007||Manly Astrophysics Board|
|2006 – 2009||Adviser, International Astronomical Union|
|2006 – 2008||Member, Peter Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize Advisory Board (USA)|
|2005 – 2010||Member, Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Advisory Board (Germany)|
|2003 – 2006||President, International Astronomical Union|
|2002 – 2007||Member, Australian Astronomy Board of Management|
|2002 – 2004||Chairman, Anglo-Australian Telescope Board|
|2000 – 2003||President-Elect International Astronomical Union|
|1999 – 2003||Member, Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Advisory Board (Germany)|
|1998 – 2002||Member of the Editorial Board for Science and Technology|
|1998-||NOVA Advisory Board (Joint Netherlands Research School for Astronomy)|
|1997 – 2001||Member, Anglo-Australian Telescope Board|
|1995 – 2002||Member of the Executive of the AIPS++ Board|
|1995||Member ‘Project Auger’ evaluation board UNESCO (Paris)|
|1994 – 1999||Member Advisory Board, Research Centre for Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Sydney|
|1994 – 1996||Member editorial board of Experimental Astronomy (Europe)|
|1990 – 1993||Chairman URSI Commission J|
|1989-||Editorial Board, Journal of Astrophysics & Astronomy (India)|
|1987 – 1990||Vice Chairman URSI Commission J|
|1985 – 1988||Member of Board of Directors of Rio Grande Technology Foundation (USA)|
|1982||Member of the TDA Advisory Council, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (USA)|
|1975 – 1980||Member of the Board of Directors NFRA|
|2008 – 2009||UNESCO IYA International Advisory Committee|
|2008||Chair, NAOJ Review Committee (Japan)|
|2007||NanÃ§ay Advisory Committee (France)|
|2006||Member, FAST Senior Review (China)|
|2005 – 2007||Member, Academy of Science Sectional Committee 2|
|2004 – 2007||At-Large member International SKA Steering Committee|
|2002 – 2003||Member, Steering Committee, OECD Global Science Forum Workshop on Large Scale Astronomy Facilities|
|2001 – 2003||Member, Radio Astronomy Task Force, OECD Global Science Forum|
|2001-||Member, Allan Telescope Array Advisory Committee (USA)|
|2000 – 2002||Chairman, International SKA Steering Committee|
|2000||Member, Pawsey Medal Selection Committee (Australia)|
|2000 – 2004||Member, The Australian Academy of Science Elizabeth and Frederick White Conference Committee|
|1999 – 2004||Member, Australian Gemini Steering Committee|
|1998 – 2000||Chairman of IAU Working Group for Future Large Scale Facilities|
|1997 – 1999||Australian representative OECD Megascience forum working group on radio astronomy|
|1997 – 1999||Chairman SETI Institute Science and Technology Working Group (USA)|
|1997||Member of the Advisory Panel for the Mauritius Radio Telescope|
|1996 – 2003||CSIRO sector coordinator for radio astronomy|
|1996 – 1998||Member of the University of Wollongong Faculty of Science Visiting Committee|
|1995 – 1997||Member of IAU Working Group for Future Large Scale Facilities|
|1995||Chairman of the Joint Review of the Institute of Advanced Studies, Review of the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories (Australia)|
|1994||Member NCA Large Optical Telescope Working Group (Australia)|
|1994||Member Netherlands ASTRON Foreign Evaluation Committee (Netherlands)|
|1993 – 1999||Member of the URSI, IAU Large Telescope Working Group|
|1993 – 1996||Member URSI Long Range Planning Committee|
|1993 – 1994||Chairman, ARC Astronomy and Astrophysics Grant Review Committee (Australia)|
|1992 – 2003||Member National Committee for Astronomy (Australia)|
|1991 – 1992||Member ASTEC Working Party on Major National Research Facilities (Australia)|
|1991||Chairman of the Visiting Committee of the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy (Netherlands)|
|1990 – 2003||Ex Officio member ATNF Steering Committee|
|1990 – 2000||Member URSI Global VLBI Working Group|
|1989 – 1992||Chairman National Committee for Astronomy (Australia)|
|1989 – 1992||SERC Radio Astronomy Review Panel (UK)|
|1988 – 1991||Member of VLBA Advisory Committee (USA)|
|1987 – 1988||Member of the Haystack Visiting Committee (USA)|
|1987 – 1988||Member of Sigma XI, Committee on Lectureships (USA)|
|1987||Member of the Science Application Sub-Committee of the National Committee on Super-Computing Policy (USA)|
|1986||Member of the Visiting Committee of the Meudon Radio Observatory (France)|
|1985||Member of the Scientific Review Committee for the CSIRO Division of Radiophysics (Australia)|
|1984||Member of the Review Subcommittee on Radio Astronomy and Solar Physics at the HIA of the National Research Council (Canada)|
|1982 – 1988||Member of the Advisory Committee for the construction of the Australia Telescope|
|1980 – 1987||Member of the Visiting Committee of the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy (Netherlands)|
|1979 – 1980||Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Institute for Millimeter Astronomy (France)|
|1977 – 1978||Member of the Program Committee Effelsberg (Germany)|
|1975 – 1978||Member of the Visiting Committee of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (USA)|
|1975 – 1977||Member of the Visiting Committee of the Meudon Radio Observatory (France)|
|1975 – 1976||Chairman of the Program Committee NFRA|
|1973 – 1979||Member of the Advisory Committee for the construction of the VLA (USA)|
|1972 – 1976||Member of the Program Committee of the Netherlands Foundation for Radio Astronomy (NFRA)|
- Ekers RD, 2009, Personal communication.
- CSIRO astronomer elected to Royal Society, 2005 (Media Release)