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Benefits of winning the Nobel Prize


Consequences of being a Nobel Prize laureate
Antony Hewish Astronomer
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And then I mentioned the meetings that happened later when – it’s about once every 3 years – physics Nobel laureates get invited to Lindau, to this international meeting, with about 20 or 30 other laureates. I think they usually put physics and chemistry together. And you just give popular lectures to the… to the students of… of the world. The UK is not very good at sending people to that because it costs money, and… but there were about a dozen students from England. But they look after you very well in a nice old-fashioned hotel besides Lake Constance, and lay on trips on the lake and all that sort of thing. And you get the chance to chat to other laureates, totally informally. Perhaps I should have said that when you actually get the prize, they work you quite hard because you give lectures up and down, up and down Stockholm, up and down… well, around universities. I went to give a lecture at Lund and, well, the whole thing is… is just handled so extremely well and, coming back to the ceremony, I mean, how they managed to put that on with such colour and… and enjoyable pomp and circumstance year after year, amazes me. But people tell me that it’s just the same now as it… as it ever was. And it’s… it’s on live television, of course, and the Swedes absolutely love watching it, it’s a bit like the Olympic Games, as far as they’re concerned, I think. Although it’s fully televised and available in this country, this country takes absolutely no interest, as far as I can see, there’s… there’s no coverage of these things. Science just doesn’t… doesn’t really weigh very heavily in the… in the ratings when it comes to TV, and so it doesn’t… doesn’t get on English TV. But the whole thing is… is a wonderful experience. But I often get asked the question, did it… how did it change your life? Well, I suppose, for some people, it might change their life but, for me, it didn’t. I mean, I already had my chair in Cambridge when this happened and I was involved with running research here in Cambridge. And really, there was nowhere else I would rather have been. I mean, Cambridge, until the 1970s, was the top of the radio astronomy league and the… the lead hadn’t then gone to the US. I mean, the US always can… can do more than you can because they can afford it, and they… they can build better telescopes once they know what to build. But … but until about 1970 the 5-km telescope was the best instrument in the world and we were… we were at the cutting edge of it all. I hope we still are at the cutting edge in some areas, but it’s… it’s a different game now altogether.

Antony Hewish (1924-2021) was a pioneer of radio astronomy known for his study of intergalactic weather patterns and his development of giant telescopes. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974, together with fellow radio-astronomer Sir Martin Ryle, for his decisive role in the groundbreaking discovery of pulsars. He also received the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1969.

Listeners: Dave Green

Dave Green is a radio astronomer at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. As an undergraduate at Cambridge his first university physics lecture course was given by Professor Hewish. Subsequently he completed his PhD at the Cavendish Laboratory when Professor Hewish was head of the radio astronomy group, and after postdoctoral research in Canada he returned to the Cavendish, where he is now a Senior Lecturer. He is a Teaching Fellow at Churchill College. His research interests include supernova remnants and the extended remains of supernova explosions.

Duration: 3 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2008

Date story went live: 25 June 2009