Dennis Sciama

This conference will celebrate the opening of the Dennis Sciama Building at the University of Portsmouth, which will be the new home of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation.

Dennis W. Sciama, FRS, (November 18, 1926-December 18, 1999) was a leading figure in the development of British astrophysics and cosmology from the late 1950's until his death. He was also a leading author in popularising astrophysics, with ground-breaking books such as The Unity of the Universe (1959) and Modern Cosmology (1971). Sciama was a student of Paul Dirac, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, and worked at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Texas. In 1981 he moved from Oxford to the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste where, with his charismatic leadership, he promoted the development of cosmology and astrophysics, guiding young researchers of many nationalities.

Sciama's influence on current astrophysics and cosmology is felt through the large number of his students who later became leaders in this research field, and then had many students themselves. He was the PhD supervisor of Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees (the Astronomer Royal), and many other eminent researchers in cosmology today. Leading American astrophysicist, Kip Thorne, has described how in the 1960's and 70's three main research schools developed in the US, the UK, and Russia. He describes these as three tribes, and his name for the UK tribe is the "Sciamanians". Today, many astrophysicists around the world can be said to be, directly or indirectly, Sciamanians, and this includes many of the researchers in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth. Many of them are expected to come to Portsmouth for the meeting, including Martin Rees who will officially open the new Sciama building.

Construction of the Dennis Sciama Building was completed at the end of 2008.