Prof Roger Griffin (1935-2021)

Forums History Prof Roger Griffin (1935-2021)

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    Dominic Ford

    Roger GriffinThis morning I (virtually) attended the funeral of Prof Roger Griffin (1935-2021), who passed away on 12 February.

    As many of you will know, Roger pioneered the use the spectroscopy to measure the orbital velocities of binary stars in the early 1960s. He continued making spectroscopic observations of binary stars using the 36-inch telescope in Cambridge for the rest of his life, until his final illness made that impossible. His series of papers “Spectroscopic binary orbits from photoelectric radial velocities” in the journal Observatory made it to 265 installments, spanning 1975 to 2019.

    Roger is likely to go down in history as the last observer to make systematic professional observations at visible wavelengths from Cambridge Observatory, and his series of 265 papers is almost certainly the longest series of numbered papers in the astronomical literature.

    Away from the eyepiece, Roger was an ardent campaigner on light-pollution issues and a good friend to amateur observers both in Cambridge and further afield. I gather several BAA Section Directors corresponded with him at various times. As a newly-arrived 18-year-old student, I remember well visiting Roger in the 36-inch dome, and him allowing me to drive the telescope and explaining to me how his spectrograph worked.

    His other big interest in life was marathon running, which he took no less seriously than his astronomy. He ran the London Marathon eleven times, and in 2003, aged 68, ran the fastest time of anybody his age or older (3h30m).

    In 2002, he was invited to give a talk to Cambridge University Astronomical Society, and this afternoon I discovered I still have an old tape recording of the talk. Roger gave a rather nice overview of his work, though unfortunately the visuals are, of course, missing. I have uploaded it to YouTube here: <>.

    James Lancashire

    Sad news. I remember often seeing him round the Cambridge telescopes on clear nights. Obit on IoA site:

    Are any of the ‘Star Men’ left?

    Bill Barton

    For those not ‘in the know’ Star Men was a 2015 documentary film that followed four British astronomers:- Donald Lynden-Bell, Roger Griffin, Wallace Sargent & Neville Woolf as they took a road trip across the South West of the United States. Neville Woolf is the only one still alive. I think the film is available on YouTube.

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