Professor earned recognition for Irish astronomy


Prof Patrick A. Wayman, who died late on Monday, brought great recognition to Irish astronomy during his three decades as director of Dunsink Observatory from 1964, Mr David Moore, chairman of Astronomy Ireland, said in a tribute yesterday.

"He held perhaps the most prestigious position in the world of astronomy when, from 1979 to 1982, he served as general secretary of the International Astronomical Union, the forum for the world's professional astronomers," Mr Moore said.

"He was responsible for Ireland's involvement in the international observatories on the Canary Islands. To this day, this affords Irish astronomers the use of the giant telescopes, the likes of which they would not otherwise have access to, thereby ensuring that Irish astronomical research is, and will be for decades to come, of world calibre."

Prof Wayman was senior professor in the astronomy section of the School of Cosmic Physics of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies until his retirement in 1992. An honorary degree of the National University of Ireland was conferred on him in the year before he retired.

He was one of the State's greatest authorities on astronomy. Ten years ago he said: "There is a constant call for something new in science, and indeed the fascination of astronomy is in large part the pace of development and the constant challenge to make new interpretations of our knowledge of the universe."

He believed that in spite of the increasing opportunities to put observing instruments into space, outside the filtering envelope of the Earth's atmosphere, ground-based optical observations remained important.

He wrote Dunsink Observatory 1785-1985: A Bicentennial History in 1987. It was described as "enthralling even to a reader who lacks the mathematical prowess to appreciate the sections on details of equipment and discoveries".

He is survived by his wife, Mavis, son, Russell, and two daughters, Karen and Sheila, who is Features Editor of The Irish Times.

The funeral service will take place tomorrow in the Church of Ireland church, Wicklow, at 10 a.m. On January 8th there will be a memorial service in the Church of Ireland church, Castleknock, Dublin, at 2.30 p.m.