Professor Steve Rawlings 1961-2012

Steve Rawlings was a great man and a great astronomer. He did his PhD at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge in the late 1980s. There he worked on giant radio galaxies and quasars, using a variety of astronomical techniques to analyse their radio and optical properties and to determine their distances from the Earth.

After a Research Fellowship at St John's College Cambridge, Steve moved to Oxford on a research council Advanced Fellowship. Increasingly, Steve became interested in the high redshift universe and greatly enjoyed, and succeeded in, discovering more-and-more distant radio galaxies. His interests in cosmology grew, and diversified into other wavebands: X-rays, sub-mm and infra-red. Steve was a prolific user of two telescopes in Hawaii the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the UK Infrared Telescope and made major contributions to our understanding of distant active galaxies, their gas and dust contents, and especially their evolution across cosmic time.

Steve brought considerable energy to yet-fainter surveys of objects in the distant universe in the sub-mm and infra-red. He also enjoyed observing at the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India and his passion for very low frequency radio observations produced considerable momentum towards the ambitious, next-generation radio telescopes such as LoFAR and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). His immense efforts varied from persuasion at political levels, to simulations of what might be detected by differently designed telescopes, to studies of how to meet the enormous computational challenges the SKA would bring. He was motivated by the scientific goals of these next-generation telescopes: measuring the distribution of hydrogen in the Universe since the Big Bang, discerning the nature of the Dark Energy said to pervade the Universe, measuring the accretion history of the Universe, and the influence of radio galaxies on the formation of structures such as galaxies and clusters. He also contributed greatly to studies of the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect: the imprint on the Cosmic Microwave Background of hot electrons captured in the deep potential wells of clusters of galaxies. Steve Rawlings' creativity in these and many other areas greatly enriched the field, and will have an enduring influence on it.

Steve was not only an excellent scientist but also a dedicated tutor and mentor - he was central to much of what happens in Oxford Astrophysics through his role as Head of Astrophysics from 2005 to 2010 and in many other ways. Steve was inclusive and supportive and engendered those values in all who interacted with him. He was also great fun: many former students and colleagues around the world will recall playing football or cricket with him. Steve’s personality and values permeate our activities. He will be very sadly missed by all. Our thoughts and prayers are with Linda, and his family at this very sad time.

If you wish to leave a message of condolence for Steve's family please email it to