Vale Gordon Stanley

One of the pioneers of radio astronomy died on 17 December 2001. Gordon James Stanley was born in Cambridge, New Zealand, on 1 July 1921, and subsequently trained as an engineer.

Gordon Stanley (centre), with John Bolton (left) and Joe Pawsey in early 1954 (ATNF Historic Photo Archives: 4013)

Towards the end of WWII he joined the fledgling radio astronomy group at the CSIRO Division of Radiophysics in Sydney, and briefly observed the Sun from North Head in 1945 before developing a 200-MHz receiver for Clay Allen's solar antenna located at Mount Stromlo. He was also involved in the construction of equipment to be taken to Brazil for the 1947 May total solar eclipse.

When plans for this expedition were abandoned, Stanley was assigned to the Dover Heights field station, and he and John Bolton briefly carried out solar observations with the equipment intended for Brazil. With assistance from Bruce Slee they then began a survey of radio sources at a number of different wavelengths using various sea interferometers, a 4.9-m parabolic antenna and the large `hole-in-the-ground' antenna. As part of this project, he and Bolton spent some months in New Zealand during 1947, using a mobile sea interferometer to obtain rising and setting records of selected sources. Towards the end of the life of Dover Heights as a radio astronomy field station, Stanley teamed with a US Fullbright Fellow, Robert Price, to search for deuterium emission using the `hole-in-the-ground' antenna. They were not successful.

Late in 1953, John Bolton accepted a position at CALTECH in order to introduce radio astronomy there, arriving in California in January 1954, and he was joined by Gordon Stanley in June of that year. They then began searching for a suitable site for a radio observatory but without initial success. While Bolton was at the 1955 IAU meeting Stanley continued the search and soon settled on Owens Valley. Construction of an interferometer using two 25.9-m parabolic dishes was commenced in mid-1957, and completed two years later. In 1961, a year after Bolton had returned to Australia, Stanley became the first Director of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory, a post that he was to occupy until 1975. As Professor of Radio Astronomy he made important contributions to science over the years.

After retiring, Stanley and his wife, Helen, lived in Carmel Valley, California, up until his death. Gordon Stanley will be remembered as one of the pioneers of radio astronomy in Australia, New Zealand and the USA, and Ken Kellermann will join us in preparing a full obituary in due course.

Wayne Orchiston and Bruce Slee