22 October 2004
AAO engineer receives
University's highest honour
Peter Gillingham, AAO instrumentation engineer, has been awarded an
honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of New South Wales for
his contributions to the development of astronomical instruments and
the design, commissioning and engineering of telescopes. The
degree, which is the highest honour the University can award, was
conferred at UNSW in Sydney, Australia, on 22 October.
Dr Gillingham’s distinguished career in astronomy has spanned three
decades. After receiving an honours degree in engineering from the
of Queensland, he worked for a few years in Victoria and South
Australia for the Weapons Research Establishment. In 1968 he switched
to astronomy, joining the Royal Greenwich Observatory as a senior
scientific officer. In 1970 he joined the Project Office of the
Anglo-Australian Telescope, and subsequently became a design engineer
for the telescope, then the commissioning engineer, chief engineer, and
finally the telescope's officer-in-charge. He contributed to Japan’s
and was appointed the first Visiting Professor to its Project office.
In 1992 Dr Gillingham became Operations Director of the WM Keck
Observatory in Hawai’i, a position he held until 1997, when he returned
to the AAO and a more ‘hands on’ engineering role.
At the AAO, Dr Gillingham has been involved in the design, manufacture
and commissioning of instruments including:
In 1987 Dr Gillingham foresaw that the higher points of the Antarctic
plateau might offer extraordinarily good astronomical seeing – an idea
spectacularly confirmed by recent test results from
Dome C in the
Australian Antarctic Territory, published in Nature on 16 September this year.
From 1989 he
began to advocate Australia’s participation in Antarctic astronomy.
- the ground-breaking IRIS, an infrared array imager and
and its recent successor, IRIS2 (both winners of Engineering Excellence
awards from Engineers Australia (formerly the Institution of Engineers);
- an ultra high resolution spectrograph which took advantage of the
bright phase of supernova 1987A to probe the intergalactic
- the OzPoz multi-fibre positioner for the European Southern
Observatory’s Very Large Telescope;
- the radical Echidna multi-fibre positioner now being built for
- a forthcoming dual spectrograph for the AAT, AAOmega.
Dr Gillingham has published more than forty papers. His contributions
to astronomical instrumentation have profoundly influenced the
development of the field.
UNSW citation can be found at
For more information:
Dr Peter Gillingham, Anglo-Australian Observatory (Sydney, Australia)
Tel: +61-2-9372-4845 (office) between 0600 and 1500, AEST (UCT/GMT + 10
PIO contact: Helen Sim, Anglo-Australian Observatory
Tel: +61-2-9372-4251 (office) +61-419-635-905 (mob)
Gillingham at the award ceremony
The leis – not a traditional part of the garb of a Doctor of Science –
were provided by a member of Peter Gillingham's family, in memory of
years he spent working in Hawai'i at the W M Keck Observatory. Picture
courtsey of UNSW PR group.