Rod Davies

Rod Davies
Rod Davies cropped from Jodrell Bank Directors.jpg
Rod Davies in 2007
Born 8 January 1930 Edit this on Wikidata
Balaklava Edit this on Wikidata
Died 8 November 2015 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 85)
Occupation Astronomer Edit this on Wikidata

Rodney Deane Davies CBE FRS (8 January 1930 – 8 November 2015) was a Professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Manchester. He was the President of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1987–1989, and the Director of Jodrell Bank Observatory in 1988–97. He is best known for his research on the Cosmic microwave background and the 21cm line.

Personal life

Davies was born on 8 January 1930[1] into a family of farmers in Balaklava, a village north of Adelaide, South Australia.[1] His parents were Holbin and Rena Davies.[2] He had three brothers.[1]

He met Beth, his wife, at the Student Christian Movement at the University of Adelaide.[2] They married in 1953, and later that same year they moved to Cheshire, United Kingdom. They had four children: Rosalyn, Claire, Stewart and Warwick (who predeceased him), and eleven grandchildren:[1] Luke, Josh (m. Cat), Dom, Hannah, Nyasha, Laura, Eleanor, Hettie, Annie, Leo, and Jemima.[2]

He became a Methodist preacher at the age of 16 at his church in South Australia,[1][3][2] and regularly attended his Methodist chapel in Manchester. He also had an extensive knowledge of trees.[1]

Rod Davies' gravestone at Alderley Edge Cemetery

He suffered from cancer,[1] but carried on working regardless. His health declined in the last two months of his life,[2] and he died on 8 November 2015.[1]

Education and career

He went to Adelaide High School.[2] In 1946[2] he was awarded a scholarship to study Physics at the University of Adelaide,[1] receiving an Honours degree in 1951.[4] He then became a Research Officer in the Radiophysics Division of CSIRO in Sydney,[4] observing radio bursts from the Sun.[2]

When he was 23 he sent an airmail letter to Bernard Lovell, a friend of his then-boss Joe Pawsey, asking for a position at Jodrell Bank Observatory,[1] and he was subsequently appointed Assistant Lecturer at the University of Manchester in 1953.[4] He was awarded a PhD in 1956 on his work measuring the distance of galaxies using the 21cm line, examined by Jan Oort.[1] He was the Director of Jodrell Bank Observatory from 1988 until 1997.[4]

He was the President of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1987–89.[4] He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1992.[4][5][6] He received a CBE in 1995.[4] He retired in 1997, but he continued to actively work at Jodrell Bank until his death.[2]


Over the course of his career, he published over 500 scientific papers.[1] His research focused on the large-scale structure of the Universe. He studied emission from the Hydrogen line in galaxies,[1][7][8][9][10][11] providing insight into the Hubble flow.[5] He observed OH emission using interferometers.[12]

He was best known for his work measuring the Cosmic Microwave Background emission,[1] providing upper limits on the CMB anisotropies,[5][13][14][15][16] which began with observations on cold winter nights at Jodrell Bank Observatory in the late 1970s, before relocating his telescopes 2,400 millimetres (7.9 ft) up the mountain on Tenerife in the early 1980s to take advantage of the clearer atmosphere at that location. By the early 1990s his instruments had detected the anisotropies of the CMB, however the publication of his results came after the results of the Cosmic Background Explorer had been announced; the COBE team went on to win the Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery.[1]

He also led research on the emission of the Milky Way as measured by CMB experiments.[17] He worked on the Planck satellite,[18] co-coordinating the Planck projects on Galactic and Solar System science.[19]

He continued his research over 18 years after his retirement, with his final paper due to be published several months after his death.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Professor Rod Davies – Obituary". The Times. 17 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Rodney Deane Davies 1930–2015". Astronomy & Geophysics. 57. February 2016.
  3. ^ Russell Stannard, ed. (2000). "The Alpha and Omega of Space and Time". God for the 21st Century. Templeton Foundation Press. p. 9. ISBN 1-890151-39-4.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Professor Rod Davies CBE FRS". Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. 11 November 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "Rodney Davies – Biography". Royal Society. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  6. ^ Graham-Smith, Francis; Lyne, Andrew G.; Dickinson, Clive (28 March 2018). "Rodney Deane Davies CBE. 8 January 1930—8 November 2015". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 64: 149–162. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2017.0037. ISSN 0080-4606.
  7. ^ Davies, R.D.; et al. (1960). "A study of neutral hydrogen in the solar neighbourhood of the Milky Way". MNRAS. 120 (5): 483–497. Bibcode:1960MNRAS.120..483D. doi:10.1093/mnras/120.5.483.
  8. ^ Davies, R.D. (1964). "A search for intergalactic neutral hydrogen. (II) – Data of cosmological significance derived from the observations". MNRAS. 128 (2): 133–146. Bibcode:1964MNRAS.128..133D. doi:10.1093/mnras/128.2.133.
  9. ^ Davies, R.D.; et al. (1970). "Neutral hydrogen in M31. (I) – The distribution of neutral hydrogen". MNRAS. 149 (3): 237. Bibcode:1970MNRAS.149..237D. doi:10.1093/mnras/149.3.237.
  10. ^ Davies, R.D.; et al. (1978). "A search for neutral hydrogen in primordial protoclusters at z = 3.33 and 4.92". MNRAS. 182 (4): 727–733. Bibcode:1978MNRAS.182..727D. doi:10.1093/mnras/182.4.727.
  11. ^ Staveley-Smith, L.; Davies, R.D (1989). "The peculiar velocity of the Local Group.(III) – Dipole, quadrupole and infall solutions". MNRAS. 241: 787. Bibcode:1989MNRAS.241..787S. doi:10.1093/mnras/241.4.787.
  12. ^ Cooper, A.J.; et al. (1971). "Interferometric investigations of sources of OH emission". MNRAS. 152: 383. Bibcode:1971MNRAS.152..383C. doi:10.1093/mnras/152.4.383.
  13. ^ Lasenby, A.N.; Davies, R.D. (1983). "Lambda 6-cm observations of the fluctuations in the 3 K cosmic microwave background". MNRAS. 203: 1137. Bibcode:1983MNRAS.203.1137L. doi:10.1093/mnras/203.4.1137.
  14. ^ Davies, R.D.; et al. (1996). "Studies of cosmic microwave background structure at Dec.=+40 deg – I. The performance of the Tenerife experiments". MNRAS. 278 (3): 883. Bibcode:1996MNRAS.278..883D. doi:10.1093/mnras/278.3.883.
  15. ^ Hancock, S.; et al. (1997). "Studies of CMB structure at Dec = +40o. Analysis and cosmological interpretation". MNRAS. 289 (3): 505. arXiv:astro-ph/9703043. Bibcode:1997MNRAS.289..505H. doi:10.1093/mnras/289.3.505.
  16. ^ Dickinson, C.; et al. (2004). "High sensitivity measurements of the CMB power spectrum with the extended VSA". MNRAS. 353 (3): 732. arXiv:astro-ph/0402498. Bibcode:2004MNRAS.353..732D. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2004.08206.x.
  17. ^ Davies, R.D; Dickinson, C.; Banday, A.J.; et al. (2006). "A determination of the spectra of Galactic components observed by the Wilkinson Microwave anisotropy Probe". MNRAS. 370 (3): 1125–1139. arXiv:astro-ph/0511384. Bibcode:2006MNRAS.370.1125D. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2006.10572.x.
  18. ^ "Are there other universes out there? An interview with Rod Davies". ESA. 2 May 2001. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  19. ^ "Planck Core Programme Overview". ESA. Retrieved 17 December 2015.

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