Born in Renfrewshire, Scotland, Ronald Drever studied at Glasgow University and gained his PhD there in 1958. At Glasgow he looked for gravitational waves first by monitoring the vibrations of aluminium bar detectors and then by setting up a 10-metre interferometer. In 1979 he was hired by the California Institute of Technology to lead a new programme in experimental gravitation, which led to the construction of a 40-metre device that tested many of the techniques employed in LIGO.
Drever has carried out experiments in a number of areas of physics, including spectroscopic measurements to look for anisotropy of mass and space - his null results providing accurate confirmations of both special and general relativity. However, it is in the study of gravitational radiation that he has left his biggest mark. Among his many innovations is a technique for improving the stability of laser frequencies.
Drever has been awarded the Einstein Prize, the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the Gruber Prize in Cosmology. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, having also been vice-president of the Royal Astronomical Society.