CfA Colloquium Schedule Fall 2013
 31 October 2013

31 October 2013

Speaker: W. Miller Goss (NRAO)

Title:Under the Radar: the First Woman in Radio Astronomy, Ruby Payne-Scott

Abstract: Ruby Payne-Scott (1912-1981) was an eminent Australian scientist who made major contributions to the WWII radar effort (CSIR) from 1941 to 1945. In late 1945, she pioneered radio astronomy efforts at Dover Heights in Sydney, Australia at a Beautiful cliff top overlooking the Tasman Sea. Again at Dover Heights, Payne-Scott carried out the first interferometry in radio astronomy using an Australian Army radar antenna as a radio telescope at sun-rise, 26 January 1946. She continued these ground breaking activities until 1951. The sea-cliff interferometer played a major role in the early discoveries by the radio astronomers in Australia. Ruby Payne-Scott played a major role in discovering and elucidating the properties of Type III bursts from the sun, the most common of the five classes of transient phenomena from the solar corona. These bursts are one of the most intensively studied forms of radio emission in all of astronomy. She is also one of the inventors of aperture synthesis in radio astronomy. I examine her career at the University of Sydney and her conflicts with the CSIR hierarchy concerning the rights of women in the work place, specifically equal wages and the lack of permanent status for married women. I also explore her membership in the Communist Party of Australia as well as her partially released Australian Security Intelligence Organisation file. Payne-Scott's role as a major participant in the flourishing radio astronomy research of the post war era remains a remarkable story. She had a number of collaborations with the pioneers of early radio astronomy in Australia: Pawsey, Mills, Christiansen, Bolton and Little. I have recently written a population version of the Payne-Scott story; "Making Waves, The Story of Ruby Payne-Scott: Australian Pioneer Radio Astronomer", published 1 August 2013 by Spring in the Astronomers' Universe Series.


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