The RAS offers its condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Professor Brian Warner, who has died at the age of 83.
He was one of the most distinguished astronomers in South Africa, and his name is synonymous with astronomy at the University of Cape Town, where he was the founding Chair of Astronomy on his arrival in 1972. He held the post for 33 years until his retirement in 2004.
Warner was born in Crawley Down in the UK on 25 May 1939. He obtained his BSc (1961) and PhD (1964) from University College London. His early days in Astronomy were characterised as a very keen amateur astronomer and later, professionally, as a stellar spectroscopist. After his PhD, Warner was a senior research fellow at Balliol College (Oxford) and associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He brought the then novel technique of high-speed photometry to the South African Astronomical Observatory, using it to study cataclysmic variables and in measuring the radii of stars.
Over his academic career Warner received numerous honours and awards for his outstanding scholarship. He was a Fellow of the University of Cape Town, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and of University College London. He received the Science-for-Society Gold Medal from the Academy of Science of South Africa, the John F. W. Herschel Medal from the Royal Society of South Africa, and the Gill Medal from the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa.
Warner was vice-president of the International Astronomical Union from 2003 to 2009, during which time the South African Large Telescope (SALT) was constructed, and the country bid successfully to host part of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA). The legacy of this work is reflected in the discoveries made by SALT and the SKA precursor telescope MeerKAT.
Professor Mike Edmunds, the President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “Brian Warner will be well remembered in Oxford, Texas and South Africa. He was a notable researcher, particularly in photometry of binary star systems, and he took a keen interest in the history of astronomy – especially John Herschel’s time at the Cape.”