Martin Rees

The Right Honourable
The Lord Rees of Ludlow

Martin Rees in 2005
President of the Royal Society
In office
Preceded by The Lord May of Oxford
Succeeded by Sir Paul Nurse
Personal details
Born Martin John Rees
(1942-06-23) 23 June 1942
York, England, United Kingdom
Spouse(s) Dame Caroline Humphrey[1]

Scientific career

Fields Astronomy, astrophysics
Institutions Trinity College, Cambridge
University of Sussex
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Thesis Physical processes in radio sources and inter-galactic medium (1967)
Doctoral advisor Dennis Sciama
Doctoral students Roger Blandford
Craig Hogan
Priyamvada Natarajan
Known for Cosmic microwave background radiation quasars
Astronomer Royal
President of Royal Society
Notable awards Dannie 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)
Martin Rees' voice
Recorded June 2010 from the BBC Radio 4 programme the Reith Lectures

Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, OM, FRS, FREng, FMedSci[2] (born 23 June 1942) is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist. He has been Astronomer Royal since 1995[3][4] and was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge from 2004 to 2012 and President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.[5] Rees currently sits on the Board of Sponsors for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Early life

Rees was born on 23 June 1942 in York, England.[1][6] 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 continues to thrive to this day.[7] He was educated at Bedstone College, then from the age of 13 at Shrewsbury School, Shropshire. He studied for the Mathematics tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge,[1] graduating with first class. He then undertook post-graduate research at Cambridge and completed a PhD degree under Dennis Sciama in 1967.[8][9] 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.[7] Martin Rees is an atheist and has criticised militant atheists for being too hostile to religion.[10][11]

Scientific career

After holding post-doctoral 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 and is an Honorary Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge and Jesus College, Cambridge.

Lord 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 and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[12]

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 is the author of more than 500 research papers, and he has made important 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.[5]

He was one of the first to propose that enormous black holes power quasars,[13] and that superluminal astronomical observations can be explained as an optical illusion caused by an object moving partly in the direction of the observer.[14]

In recent years, Lord Rees has worked on gamma-ray bursts, especially in collaboration with Peter Mészáros, 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".

Lord 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,[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] In 2005, he was awarded the Crafoord Prize.[18]

He became President of the Royal Society on 1 December 2005[19][20] and continued until the end of the Society's 350th Anniversary Celebrations in 2010. In 2011, he was awarded the Templeton Prize.[21]

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.[22][23] He is a member of the Board of the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, the IPPR, the Oxford Martin School and the Gates Cambridge Trust. He co-founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk[24] and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute.[25] He has formerly been a Trustee of the British Museum and the Science Museum. He is a foreign member of Science Academy of Turkey[26]

In August 2014, Lord Rees of Ludlow was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[27]

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.[28]



Named after him


See also


  1. 1 2 3 "'REES OF LUDLOW', Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press". (subscription required)
  2. 1 2 3 4 "List of Fellows".
  3. "Portraits of Astronomers Royal". Royal Museums Greenwich. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  4. "Astronomer Royal". The official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  5. 1 2 List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  6. GRO Register of Births: SEP 1942 9c 1465 YORK – Martin J. Rees, mmn=Bett
  7. 1 2 "Templeton Prize – Current Winner".
  8. Rees, Martin (1967). Physical Processes in Radio Sources and the Intergalactic Medium (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  9. Inventory: Martin Rees,; accessed 31 August 2014.
  10. "Templeton Report: Martin J. Rees Wins 2011 Templeton Prize".
  11. Sample, Ian (6 April 2011). "Martin Rees: I've got no religious beliefs at all – interview".
  12. "M.J. Rees". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 14 February 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  13. 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.
  14. Rees, M.J. (1966). "Appearance of Relativistically Expanding Radio Sources". Nature. 211 (5048): 468–70. Bibcode:1966Natur.211..468R. doi:10.1038/211468a0.
  15. The Reith Lectures 2010: The Scientific Citizen by Martin Rees,; accessed 31 August 2014.
  16. Interview with Paul Broks,; accessed 31 August 2014.
  17. Sir Martin Rees appointed to the House of Lords,, 1 August 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  18. Professor Sir Martin Rees wins Crafoord Prize,, 10 February 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  19. Martin Rees tipped to head Royal Society,, 29 March 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  20. Martin Rees nominated for presidency of the Royal Society,, 29 March 2005; accessed 31 August 2014.
  21. Martin Rees wins controversial Templeton Prize,, 6 April 2011; accessed 31 August 2014.
  22. "Dark Materials: The legacy of Joseph Rotblat",; accessed 31 August 2014.
  23. Podcast of Lecture "The World in 2050", given at the James Martin 21st Century School,, February 2009.
  24. Lewsey, Fred (25 November 2012). "Humanity's last invention and our uncertain future". Research News. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  25. Who We Are, Future of Life Institute, 2014, retrieved 7 May 2014
  26. "Foreign Honorary Members". Bilim Akademisi. Bilim Akademisi. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  27. "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland". 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  28. 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.
  29. The London Gazette: no. 52935. p. 9177. 29 May 1992.
  31. "Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2003". Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  32. The London Gazette: no. 57753. p. 11653. 9 September 2005.
  33. The London Gazette: no. 58379. p. 9395. 29 June 2007.
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Academic offices
Preceded by
Amartya Sen
Master of Trinity College, University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
Greg Winter
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