Martin Rees

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The Lord Rees of Ludlow

Martin Rees-6Nov2005.jpg
Martin Rees in 2005
60th President of the Royal Society
In office
Preceded byRobert May, Baron May of Oxford
Succeeded byPaul Nurse
Personal details
Martin John Rees

(1942-06-23) 23 June 1942 (age 76)
York, England, United Kingdom
EducationShrewsbury School[1]
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (BA, MA, PhD)
Known forCosmic microwave background radiation quasars
Astronomer Royal
President of Royal Society
AwardsDannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics (1984)
Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1987)
Balzan Prize (1989)
Bower Award (1998)
Gruber Prize in Cosmology (2001)
Albert Einstein World Award of Science (2003)
Michael Faraday Prize (2004)
Crafoord Prize (2005)
Order of Merit (2007)
Templeton Prize (2011)
Isaac Newton Medal (2012)
HonFREng[2] (2007)
Nierenberg Prize (2015)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
University of Sussex
ThesisPhysical processes in radio sources and inter-galactic medium (1967)
Doctoral advisorDennis Sciama[3]
Doctoral students

Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, OM, FRS, FREng, FMedSci, FRAS[9][2] (born 23 June 1942) is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist. He has been Astronomer Royal since 1995[10][11] and was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge from 2004 to 2012 and President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.[12][13][14][15][16][17]

Education and early life[edit]

Rees was born on 23 June 1942 in York, England.[1][18] After a peripatetic life during the war his parents, both teachers, settled with Rees, an only child, in a rural part of Shropshire near the border with Wales. There, his parents founded Bedstone College, a boarding school based on progressive educational concepts, that thrives to this day.[19] He was educated at Bedstone College, then from the age of 13 at Shrewsbury School. He studied for the mathematics tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge,[1] graduating with first class honours. He then undertook post-graduate research at Cambridge and completed a PhD supervised by Dennis Sciama in 1967.[3][20][21] Rees's post-graduate work in astrophysics in the mid-1960s coincided with an explosion of new discoveries, with breakthroughs ranging from confirmation of the big bang, the discovery of neutron stars and black holes, and a host of other revelations.[19]

Career and research[edit]

After holding postdoctoral research positions in the United Kingdom and the United States, he taught at Sussex University and the University of Cambridge, where he was the Plumian Professor until 1991, and the director of the Institute of Astronomy.

From 1992 to 2003, he was Royal Society Research Professor, and from 2003 Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics. He was Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London, in 1975 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1979. He holds Visiting Professorships at Imperial College London and at the University of Leicester. He is a fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge,[22] and an Honorary Fellow of King's College,[23] Clare Hall,[24] and Jesus College, Cambridge.[25]

Rees is the author of more than 500 research papers,[12] and he has made contributions to the origin of cosmic microwave background radiation, as well as to galaxy clustering and formation. His studies of the distribution of quasars led to final disproof of Steady State theory.[12]

He was one of the first to propose that enormous black holes power quasars,[26] and that superluminal astronomical observations can be explained as an optical illusion caused by an object moving partly in the direction of the observer.[27]

Since the 1990s, Rees has worked on gamma-ray bursts, especially in collaboration with Peter Mészáros,[28] and on how the "cosmic dark ages" ended when the first stars formed. In a more speculative vein, he has, since the 1970s, been interested in anthropic reasoning, and the possibility that our visible universe is part of a vaster "multiverse".[29][30]

Rees is an author of books on astronomy and science intended for the lay public and gives many public lectures and broadcasts. In 2010 he was chosen to deliver the Reith Lectures for the BBC,[31] now published as From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons. Rees believes the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is worthwhile, although the chance of success is small.[32]

Aside from expanding his scientific interests, Rees has written and spoken extensively about the problems and challenges of the 21st century, and the interfaces between science, ethics and politics.[33][34] He is a member of the Board of the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, the Oxford Martin School and the Gates Cambridge Trust. He co-founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk[35] and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute.[36] He has formerly been a Trustee of the British Museum, the Science Museum and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

In August 2014, Rees was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.[37]

In 2015, he was co-author of the report that launched the Global Apollo Programme, which calls for developed nations to commit to spending 0.02% of their GDP for 10 years, to fund co-ordinated research to make carbon-free baseload electricity less costly than electricity from coal by the year 2025.[38]

His doctoral students have included Roger Blandford,[3][4] Craig Hogan,[5][6] Nick Kaiser[39] Priyamvada Natarajan,[citation needed] and Susan Stepney.[40]


  • Cosmic Coincidences: Dark Matter, Mankind, and Anthropic Cosmology (co-author John Gribbin), 1989, Bantam; ISBN 0-553-34740-3
  • New Perspectives in Astrophysical Cosmology, 1995; ISBN 0-521-64544-1
  • Gravity's Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe, 1995; ISBN 0-7167-6029-0, 2nd edition 2009, ISBN 0-521-71793-0
  • Before the Beginning – Our Universe and Others, 1997; ISBN 0-7382-0033-6
  • Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, 1999; ISBN 0-297-84297-8
  • Our Cosmic Habitat, 2001; ISBN 0-691-11477-3
  • Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century—On Earth and Beyond (UK title: Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-first Century?), 2003; ISBN 0-465-06862-6
  • What We Still Don't Know ISBN 978-0-7139-9821-4 yet to be published.
  • From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons, 2011; ISBN 978-1-84668-5033
  • On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, October 2018, Princeton University Press; ISBN 9780691180441

Honours and awards[edit]

He has been President of the Royal Astronomical Society (1992–94) and the British Association (1995–96), and was a Member of Council of the Royal Institution of Great Britain until 2010. Rees has received honorary degrees from a number of universities including Sussex, Uppsala, Toronto, Durham, Oxford, Yale, Melbourne and Sydney. He belongs to several foreign academies, including the US National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[41] the Science Academy of Turkey[42] and the Japan Academy. He became President of the Royal Society on 1 December 2005[43][44] and continued until the end of the Society's 350th Anniversary Celebrations in 2010. In 2011, he was awarded the Templeton Prize.[45] In 2005, Rees was elevated to a life peerage, sitting as a crossbencher in the House of Lords as Baron Rees of Ludlow, of Ludlow in the County of Shropshire.[46] In 2005, he was awarded the Crafoord Prize.[47] Other awards and honours include:

The Asteroid 4587 Rees and the Sir Martin Rees Academic Scholarship at Shrewsbury International School are named in his honour.

Personal life[edit]

Rees married Caroline Humphrey in 1986.[1] He is an atheist but has criticised militant atheists for being too hostile to religion.[55][56][57] He is a member of the Labour Party.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Anon (2017) REES OF LUDLOW, Baron. Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. closed access publication – behind paywall doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.32152 (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d "List of Fellows".
  3. ^ a b c d Martin Rees at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ a b Blandford, Roger David (1973). Electrodynamics and astrophysical applications of strong waves. (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 500386171. EThOS
  5. ^ a b Hogan, Craig James (1980). Pre galactic history (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. EThOS
  6. ^ a b Hogan, Craig James. "Curriculum vitae" (PDF). Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Anon (2015). "The Lord Rees of Ludlow OM Kt HonFREng FRS". royalsociety. Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 11 November 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

  10. ^ "Portraits of Astronomers Royal". Royal Museums Greenwich. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Astronomer Royal". The official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  12. ^ a b c Martin Rees publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  13. ^ Martin J. Rees at Library of Congress Authorities, with 23 catalogue records
  14. ^ "2005 talk: Is this our final century?". accessed 31 August 2014
  15. ^ "Interviews with Charlie Rose, 2003 and 2008". Archived from the original on 28 January 2010. accessed 31 August 2014
  16. ^ Anon (2010). "New Statesman Interviews Martin Rees". New Statesman. accessed 31 August 2014
  17. ^ Talk by Martin Rees, March 2017 on YouTube
  18. ^ GRO Register of Births: SEP 1942 9c 1465 YORK – Martin J. Rees, mmn=Bett
  19. ^ a b "Templeton Prize – Current Winner".
  20. ^ Rees, Martin (1967). Physical Processes in Radio Sources and the Intergalactic Medium. (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  21. ^ Anon (2014). "Inventory: Martin Rees". Financial Times. (subscription required) accessed 31 August 2014
  22. ^ "Master & fellows". Darwin College Cambridge. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  23. ^ "Honorary Fellows". Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  24. ^ "Honorary Fellow | Clare Hall". Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  25. ^ "Honorary and St Radegund Fellows". Jesus College Cambridge. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  26. ^ Rees, M.J. (1984). "Black Hole Models for Active Galactic Nuclei". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 22: 471–506. Bibcode:1984ARA&A..22..471R. doi:10.1146/annurev.aa.22.090184.002351.
  27. ^ Rees, M.J. (1966). "Appearance of Relativistically Expanding Radio Sources". Nature. 211 (5048): 468–70. Bibcode:1966Natur.211..468R. doi:10.1038/211468a0.
  28. ^ Meszaros, P.; Rees, M. J. (1992). "Tidal heating and mass loss in neutron star binaries - Implications for gamma-ray burst models". Astrophysical Journal (10).
  29. ^ Carr, B. J.; Rees, M. J. (1979). "The anthropic principle and the structure of the physical world". Nature (278): 605–612.
  30. ^ Martin J. Rees (1997). Before the Beginning: Our Universe and Others. Perseus Books. ISBN 9780738200330.
  31. ^ The Reith Lectures 2010: The Scientific Citizen by Martin Rees,; accessed 31 August 2014.
  32. ^ Interview with Paul Broks,; accessed 31 August 2014.
  33. ^ "Dark Materials: The legacy of Joseph Rotblat",; accessed 31 August 2014.
  34. ^ Podcast of Lecture "The World in 2050", given at the James Martin 21st Century School,, February 2009.
  35. ^ Lewsey, Fred (25 November 2012). "Humanity's last invention and our uncertain future". Research News. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  36. ^ Who We Are, Future of Life Institute, 2014, archived from the original on 7 May 2014, retrieved 7 May 2014
  37. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  38. ^ Carrington, Damian. "Global Apollo programme seeks to make clean energy cheaper than coal". The Guardian (2 June 2015). Guardian News Media. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  39. ^ "Nick Kaiser | Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics". Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  40. ^ Stepney, Susan (1983). Relativistic thermal plasmas. (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 499834005. EThOS
  41. ^ "M.J. Rees". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 14 February 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  42. ^ "Foreign Honorary Members". Bilim Akademisi. Bilim Akademisi. Archived from the original on 6 January 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  43. ^ Martin Rees tipped to head Royal Society,, 29 March 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  44. ^ Martin Rees nominated for presidency of the Royal Society,, 29 March 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  45. ^ Martin Rees wins controversial Templeton Prize,, 6 April 2011; accessed 31 August 2014.
  46. ^ Sir Martin Rees appointed to the House of Lords,, 1 August 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  47. ^ Professor Sir Martin Rees wins Crafoord Prize,, 10 February 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  48. ^ "No. 52935". The London Gazette. 29 May 1992. p. 9177.
  49. ^ "Honorary doctorates - Uppsala University, Sweden".
  50. ^ "Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2003". Archived from the original on 7 June 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  51. ^ "No. 57753". The London Gazette. 9 September 2005. p. 11653.
  52. ^ "No. 58379". The London Gazette. 29 June 2007. p. 9395.
  53. ^ Cressey, Daniel (2011). "Martin Rees takes Templeton Prize". Nature. doi:10.1038/news.2011.208.
  54. ^ Dirac Medal of the ICTP - The Medallists
  55. ^ "Templeton Report: Martin J. Rees Wins 2011 Templeton Prize". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  56. ^ Sample, Ian (6 April 2011). "Martin Rees: I've got no religious beliefs at all – interview".
  57. ^ "Rees, while stating he is an atheist, declares that he shares a sense of “mystery” with those who believe in God." FT, 10/18,

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Academic offices
Preceded by
Amartya Sen
Master of Trinity College, University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
Greg Winter