Biography of Dr Timothy Hawarden

Tim Hawarden began his career as an optical astronomer in South Africa. He graduated from the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg in 1966 with a BSc in Physics and Applied Mathematics, followed by an MSc in Astronomy from the University of Cape Town in 1970. This was followed by a PhD awarded in 1975.

In 1975 he moved to Australia, where he spent three years as Deputy Astronomer-in-Charge of the UK Schmidt Telescope. This was one of the foremost telescopes at the time and formed the springboard for Tim’s subsequent career move, which was to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, where he remained associated for the rest of his career, albeit seeing a number of changes to his employing agency (SRC/SERC/PPARC/STFC) and change of name and focus in 1998 to the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC).

Tim became a UK citizen in 1984, a year after marrying Frances, a fellow member of staff at the Royal Observatory.

Tim rapidly moved into the newly emerging field of infrared astronomy. The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) was the world’s premier facility and Tim became the Head of the UKIRT unit at the ROE in 1981, a post he held for the next six years, overseeing a range of developments that have stood the test of time and have provided the platform on which UKIRT has retained its world-class standing right through to this day.

Tim was posted to Hilo, Hawaii as a support astronomer for UKIRT in 1987. He undertook a key role as Project Scientist for the UKIRT Upgrades Programme, a development programme that he had spearheaded as an approved project through the funding agencies. The UKIRT Upgrades Programme was tremendously ambitious for the time and was a major undertaking that would transform the capability of the telescope and enable it to retain its cutting-edge competitiveness in spite of the emerging power of the new breed of 8-10m ground-based telescopes. Tim went on to oversee the future development of UKIRT after the completion of the upgrades project in his new position of Head of UKIRT Development.

He returned to Edinburgh in 2001 where his next role was as the UK Project Scientist in leading efforts to seek out opportunities for the next generation of large ground-based telescopes. He continued in this role until his retirement in 2006.

The other key area of work for which Tim will be remembered world-wide is his contribution to infrared astronomy from space: first as a Co-Investigator for the ISOCAM instrument for the European Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) and then for his work on Edison, which formally ran from 1990 to 1996 and for which Tim was the Co-Chair for the Technical Design Team. Although Edison failed to become a mission in its own right and in the process becoming possibly the most successful mission that never flew, there were huge and positive repercussions from the studies.

Tim was the instigator of what became the norm for such missions in the future: passive/radiative cooling, rather than relying solely on cryogens. This was a revolutionary idea and although Tim met initial severe resistance from the engineering establishment, he persevered and showed through detailed calculation that his ideas were sound. He soon gathered a strong following from fellow astronomers and eventually this idea was accepted and widely adopted.

Tim’s legacy can be seen in missions as diverse as the Herschel Telescope, launched in June 2009, through to the James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble successor, due to be launched in 2014. In acknowledgement of his expertise in the space domain, he was personally appointed by the NASA Administrator to his blue-ribbon Advisory Working Group on Long-Term Plans for NASA Space Science. This was a huge accolade and shows the esteem in which Tim was held, probably more so by his NASA colleagues than on the European scene.

Following his retirement Tim was a keen supporter of the ROE Visitor Centre in its outreach programme, specialising in ‘Meet the Astronomer’ where he captivated and inspired young schoolchildren with his engaging manner and his host of stories.