2008 Astrophysics Laureate Donald Lynden-Bell Passes

Donald Lynden-Bell (1935-2018)

Dr. Lynden-Bell, one of two recipients of the 2008 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics, has passed away.

Left to right: Maarten Schmidt and Donald Lynden-Bell receiving the 2008 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics. (Credit: Kavli Prize)

Drs. Lynden-Bell and Maarten Schmidt received the 2008 prize "for their seminal contributions to understanding the nature of quasars." Dr. Lynden-Bell studied astronomy at the University of Cambridge in the UK, to which, after periods at the California Institute of Technology and the Royal Greenwich Observatory, he returned in 1972 to become Professor of Astrophysics and the first Director of the Institute of Astronomy. He was best known in the field for work on the motion of stars, the formation of the galaxy, spiral structures and chemical evolution of galaxies, and the distributions and motions of galaxies and quasars. His 1962 paper, published with Olin Eggen and Allan Sandage, argued that our galaxy originated from the collapse of a single large gas cloud and stimulated huge interest and further research in the area. In 1969, Lynden-Bell proposed that quasars are able to generate the vast quantities of energy that make them visible thousands of millions of light years away thanks to thepresence of black holes at their centers. He argued their extreme luminosity arose from frictional heating in a gaseous disk rotating around the black holes.

The following statement was posted by the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge.

"The Institute of Astronomy is sad to announce the loss of Professor Donald Lynden-Bell, who died peacefully at home on the 5th February.

"Donald was a hugely respected contributor to the international astronomical community over many years. He was well known for his idea that galaxies contain super-massive black holes at their cores, which provide the principal source of energy to power a quasar.

"Donald is a past president of the Royal Astronomical Society, winner of the 2008 Kavli Prize for Astrophysics and was the first Director of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge. We shall all miss his intellectual brilliance, which was combined with an interest in everything we do, as well as his positive enthusiasm for life and astronomy."