[IAU logo]

[URSI logo]

[Karl Jansky at his antenna]
Jansky and his antenna. NRAO/AUI image

[Reber's Wheaton antenna]
Reber's Wheaton antenna. NRAO/AUI image

[Dover Heights]
Dover Heights. Photo supplied by Wayne Orchiston

[4C telescope]
4C telescope. NRAO/AUI image

[Ewen and horn antenna]
Ewen and the horn antenna, Harvard, 1951. Photo supplied by Ewen

[Dwingeloo, 1956]
Dwingeloo, 1956. ASTRON image

[Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Cambridge antenna used in pulsar discovery]
Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Cambridge antenna used in pulsar discovery. Bell Burnell image

[Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank]
Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank. Image © Anthony Holloway

[Wilson, Penzias, and Bell Labs horn antenna]
Wilson, Penzias, and Bell Labs horn antenna. Bell Labs image

[6-m Millimeter Radio Telescope in Mitaka, Japan]
6-m Mm Telescope in Mitaka, Japan. NAOJ image

Roy Booth in front of the 25 m telescope at Onsala Space Observatory.
Roy Booth in front of the 25 m telescope at Onsala Space Observatory. (Photographer: J-O Yxell)

Roy Booth

Contributed by John Conway, Andrzej Kus, Justin Jonas, and Richard Schilizzi

Roy Booth was born on 30 June 1938 in Flintshire, Wales and died in Kungsbacka, Sweden on 23 February 2024. He graduated in physics from the University of Wales, Swansea in 1959 and went on to do a graduate apprenticeship at Metropolitan-Vickers, later General Electric, in Manchester. After three years of experiencing all aspects of a major engineering company he went to Queens University, Belfast, to start a PhD in upper atmosphere physics. Due to his rocket experiment being delayed, he moved to Jodrell Bank, University of Manchester, to begin a PhD in Radio Astronomy, finishing his degree in 1972. His thesis studies were carried out under the supervision of Professor Rod Davies and centred on interferometric observations of OH emission. He was appointed as a lecturer at Manchester before finishing his PhD and is remembered from that time as a young and very approachable leader of the MSc Course in Radio Astronomy. During his further career at Jodrell Bank, Roy continued to work on OH masers using the MERLIN interferometer and VLBI as well as expanding his research interests to other fields including the first gravitational lens, 0957+561, and VLBI observations of active galactic nuclei. In 1974-1975 he held a visiting appointment at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR). It was during this time that he initiated meetings to establish a VLBI network in Europe (see later in this memoir) while at the same time advocating that Jodrell Bank Observatory acquire a VLBI recording terminal.

In 1981, Roy was appointed a professor at Chalmers University of Technology and Onsala Space Observatory (OSO) and was the driving force behind many of OSO's most critical developments thereafter. In 1990, he became OSO director when the Observatory was designated a national facility and remained so until his retirement from Chalmers in 2005.

Roy led the establishment of the Swedish-ESO Submillmetre Telescope (SEST) in Chile which was the first large aperture submillimetre dish in the southern hemisphere and the first large ESO project outside of optical-IR astronomy. Roy subsequently was deeply involved in ensuring European involvement, via ESO, in what eventually became the Atacama Large Millimetre-submillimetre Array (ALMA), in particular via his promotion of the European Large Southern Array which was later merged with the similar US and Asian projects. He had the foresight to argue that the future use of ALMA as a VLBI element should not be excluded during its initial design. Roy also led the Swedish involvement in the APEX telescope which replaced SEST for single dish studies in Chile, based on deploying to the Chajnantor site a modified pre full production ALMA dish. His research interests in this phase of his career continued to focus on masers (OH, SiO, and methanol) as well as studies of CO using the higher frequency telescopes at Onsala and SEST.

Other highlights of Roy's tenure as OSO Director included Onsala's involvement in the Odin submillimetre satellite for astronomy and aeronomy, launched in 2001 carrying Chalmers University-built receivers.

Throughout his career Roy was deeply involved in VLBI as a champion of the European VLBI Network (EVN) and also via his promotion of millimetre VLBI. He initiated the first meeting, in 1975, of a group of European radio astronomers interested in developing a VLBI network using existing telescopes, that became the EVN in 1980. He maintained his leading role in European VLBI for the next thirty years, chairing the European VLBI Consortium Board for two periods (1989-1991 and 1997-1999) as well as being a prominent advocate for European funding for VLBI development from 1983 onwards. He also played a crucial role in securing a Swedish contribution from the Wallenburg Foundations towards funding the EVN data processor at the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) and was the first chairman of the JIVE board from 1993-1999, a role he performed with enthusiasm and wisdom.

As part of his VLBI interests, Roy was also deeply involved in space VLBI proposals and projects from the 1980s to the 2000s including QUASAT, International VLBI Satellite, VSOP-HALCA and RadioAstron. He was a member of a small group of European and US astronomers who met during a conference in Toulouse in 1982 and decided to propose QUASAT as a joint project to ESA and NASA. He was the first chair of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI) Global VLBI Working Group established in 1993 that successfully coordinated the joint operations of the ground and space-based elements for the Japanese-led VSOP-HALCA mission launched in 1997 and, later, the Russian-led RadioAstron mission launched in 2011.

One common thread running through Roy's career was that he was a passionate advocate for international cooperation within astronomy as a means of bringing different countries and cultures together via cooperation in science and reducing the impact of narrow national perspectives. Two examples of this are his long-term support of the development of radio astronomy at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun in Poland which began in the late 1970s, and, after the demise of the Soviet Union, Roy was active during the 1990's in helping form the Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre in Latvia and integrating their antenna into the EVN.

Roy's relationship with Torun was particularly close to his heart. While at Jodrell Bank and also at Onsala he organised postdoctoral fellowships and numerous short-term stays for Polish astronomers that resulted in joint publications which shaped the VLBI research landscape in the Torun centre, particularly using the new 32m telescope as part of the EVN. This cooperation also provided an opportunity to learn and transfer observational techniques and data processing methods, knowledge of which was essential for the successful start of VLBI observations in Torun using the new 32m telescope.

After retiring from Chalmers in 2005 Roy dedicated his later active years to the development of the radio astronomy discipline in South Africa and the rest of the African continent, first becoming the Scientific Director at Hartebeesthoek Radio Observatory near Johannesburg from 2006 to 2011. He then moved to Cape Town from 2011 to take up a position in the SKA South Africa project as Project Scientist and remained there until 2014. During this period in South Africa Roy led the development of the science case for the MeerKAT radio telescope and he engaged the global radio astronomy community in the project through an open call for large-scale projects that would define the scientific capabilities of the telescope. In 2014 Roy moved to the University of Pretoria where he helped establish what is today a flourishing radio astronomy group. He also contributed to educating a new generation of radio astronomers in South Africa via his involvement in the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP). Finally, in 2017 at the age of 79, Roy and his wife Shirley returned to Sweden and to a well-earned retirement.

Throughout his academic career in the UK, Sweden and South Africa Roy supervised numerous PhD students, several of whom became prominent figures on the global radio astronomy stage.

Amongst the academic honours that Roy received were his election to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1985 and to the Royal Society of Arts and Science in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1990, and an honorary doctorate from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in 1993. In 2006 after leaving Chalmers Roy was awarded the Chalmers medal in recognition of his contributions to radio astronomy.

Roy will be missed by radio astronomers around the world as a colleague and as a friend, and also as a passionate defender of his principles and values. We will celebrate his legacy in the years to come in the manner in which he would have approved - reminiscing about his achievements and antics over a glass of good wine.

Modified on Tuesday, 16-Apr-2024 08:22:02 EDT by Ellen Bouton, Archivist (Questions or feedback)