Dr P. Brendan Byrne

 

Dr Patrick Brendan Byrne, research astronomer and former assistant director at Armagh Observatory, died on September 16th, at the tragically early age of 49, while on an observing trip to the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. Born in Dublin on September 28th, 1947, Brendan always loved astronomy and had a natural flair for scientific thought. He entered University College Dublin in 1966, and then worked for his Ph.D. at Dunsink Observatory and Trinity College Dublin. After a period as a post-doctoral research fellow at Dunsink and lecturer in the astronomy department of the University of Cape Town, he joined Armagh Observatory as a research astronomer in 1978.

Dr Byrne was assistant director of the Armagh Observatory from 1989 to 1996, and his advocacy of the strengths of the observatory at all levels sowed the seeds of the continuing expansion of research there, making it currently one of the UK's leading astronomical institutes. Brendan was also a strong supporter of the Astronomical Science Group of Ireland, which for the past 23 years has provided an important focus for the Irish astronomical community.

Brendan was a world authority on stellar astrophysics, exerting influence not only through numerous national and international collaborations but also on scientific committees, to which he gave generously of his time. Despite his lack of years, he published 150 scientific papers and numerous popular articles, and gave many professional scientific talks. He was frequently invited to present papers at major international conferences, but still found time to promote astronomy and to give talks on all possible subjects to the general public.

He made a deep impression not only on the Armagh Observatory but also on the UK, Irish and worldwide astronomical community. He would sometimes remark that he was fortunate to be paid to do his "hobby"; his colleagues are fortunate to have had the privilege to know and to work with him.

Brendan Byrne was a warm, hospitable person, with a keen sense of humour, generous with his time (particularly to his many students and research assistants) and provocative both in thought and expression. A measure of the man is that he developed personal relationships and friendships with his scientific colleagues which were life-long.

Brendan married Gay Weber in 1972, and during his period in Armagh became closely involved in many aspects of local community life, including the Armagh Golf Club. He is survived by his wife and two children, Anne and Conor, his mother and extended family.

M.E.B, C.J.B and J.G.D.