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Emeritus Professor star of The Life Scientific

7 May 2024

Professor Mike Edmunds (pictured left) with presenter Professor Jim Al-Khalili.

Professor Mike Edmunds featured in the BBC Radio 4 programme about the life and work of notable scientists.

Decoding galaxies and ancient astronomical artefacts was discussed by Professor Edmunds and host theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili in The Life Scientific, aired on April 23 on BBC Radio 4.

A former Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, Professor Edmunds is now our Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics.

He reflected on his research and teaching career, which has spanned six decades, as well as his one-man show about Sir Isaac Newton.

In the programme, Professor Edmunds joked with Professor Al-Khalili about how he was first interested in specialising in meteorology, only to decide that astronomy was safer when he was told he would have to fly a glider into a thunderstorm as part of a post-university project.

He revealed that his one-man show first came about shortly after he met his wife on a train at Paddington station.

In response to Professor Al-Khalili’s question about the UK’s reputation for astronomy, Professor Edmunds described it as “extremely good” - citing British involvement in the Extremely Large Telescope and Square Kilometre Array radio telescope projects.

His love of teaching was apparent, as he shared the “three Es” to his success: enthusiasm about the subject; being engaging; and, enabling students to learn with the right environment and practical exercises.

He also discussed his greatest influences, upbringing and first steps into astronomy, revealing that he didn’t ever have a telescope as a child.

Professor Edmunds' primary research career focused on the determination and interpretation of the abundances of the chemical elements in the Universe, as well as the investigation of the origin of interstellar dust. His later work has concentrated on the history of astronomy.

Educated at Cambridge University, Professor Edmunds has lived and worked in Wales for over 35 years.

In 2022, he became president of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), the UK’s learned society for astronomy and solar-system science.

The programme was recorded in front of a studio audience at the RAS Headquarters at Burlington House in London in March.

Listen again on BBC Sounds. An extended podcast edition is also available to download via BBC Sounds.

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