A large modern building, seen at evening, with grass trees near the front entrance.

The Pawsey Centre

Today sees the official operational launch of the Pawsey Centre, a world-class supercomputing facility in Perth, Western Australia. One of the Centre’s major roles will be to process and store data from CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope.

Who was Joe Pawsey, after whom the Centre is named?

Dr Joseph Pawsey

Dr Joseph Lade Pawsey (1908-1962), by an unknown photographer.

Source: Herald & Weekly Times Portrait Collection, State Library of Victoria

Joseph (Joe) Pawsey, born in 1908, was a CSIRO physicist. He is widely acknowledged as the “father” of radio astronomy in Australia, someone who led and inspired research teams that produced pioneering results.

He didn’t live very long: he died when he was just 54. He didn’t publish many papers. But he was so respected that he was both elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, London, and became a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

The Academy commemorates him through its Pawsey medal, which it awards each year to an outstanding young Australian physicist.

The face of the Australian Academy of Science's Pawsey medal.  Photo: Australian Academy of Science

The face of the Australian Academy of Science’s Pawsey medal.

Photo: Australian Academy of Science

Paul Wild, a radio astronomer who became Chairman of CSIRO, said that Joe Pawsey provided the ideal conditions for people to work under and achieve.

As well as being an outstanding leader, Joe Pawsey got the Australian radio astronomers using a process called interferometry, which is the basis for CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder and Australia Telescope Compact Array — indeed, for any radio telescope where several antennas work together as one instrument.

His work laid the foundations for Australian radio astronomy. And so it’s particularly appropriate for his name to be remembered in the Pawsey Centre.

Read more about Joe Pawsey and his work.

Three men standing near radio equipment in a laboratory in the late 1940s.

Founders of Australian radio astronomy: L-R John Bolton, Gordon Stanley and Joe Pawsey


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