WhySci? Interview with Sir Martin Rees

Sir Martin Rees

Co-Founder of the University of Cambridge Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER); Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, Department of Astronomy, University of Cambridge; Member of the House of Lords – contributing to national policy and discussions on science and technology
Co-Founder Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER)

Sir Martin Rees, born on June 23, 1942, in York, England, is a distinguished astrophysicist and cosmologist known for his profound contributions to our understanding of the universe. As the UK’s Astronomer Royal and a professor at the University of Cambridge, Rees has been a central figure in the field of cosmology, particularly in the exposition of the Big Bang theory.

His academic journey began at the University of Cambridge, where he pursued mathematics and later specialized in theoretical astronomy. Rees has held various prestigious positions, including the Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge and the Director of the Institute of Astronomy. He served as the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 2004 to 2012, and was appointed to the House of Lords in 2005. Rees also held the presidency of the Royal Society from 2005 to 2010.
Rees’s research has extensively covered areas such as galaxy formation, black holes, gamma-ray bursts, and the prospects of extraterrestrial life. He has been particularly influential in the study of quasars and the role of supermassive black holes. His theory that quasars are powered by supermassive black holes, initially met with skepticism, has since become a cornerstone of astrophysics.

Beyond his academic achievements, Rees is renowned for his efforts in public engagement with science. He has consistently worked to make complex astronomical concepts accessible to the general public and has emphasized the importance of science communication. His contributions to the field have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Templeton Prize in 2011 for his pioneering work on the big bang, black holes, and the early universe.

Rees’s concerns extend to long-term global issues like environmental sustainability and the impact of new technologies such as biotechnology, AI and Machine Learning. He co-founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at Cambridge University, focusing on these challenges. His advocacy for addressing climate change is noteworthy, including his involvement in influential workshops and reports that have shaped global policies.

Sir Martin Rees is also recognized for his supportive and encouraging demeanor towards junior colleagues and students, setting a high standard for conduct in academia and research. His written works, totaling over 500 research publications and several books for general readership, reflect his commitment to science and its communication.

Overall, Sir Martin Rees’s career is marked by exceptional achievements in astrophysics, a strong commitment to science education and communication, and a dedicated focus on addressing critical global issues​