Dr John Paul Wild AC CBE MA ScD (Cantab.) FRS FTSE FAA, 17 May 1923 – 10 May 2008

In this article

  1. Statement
  2. Dr Paul Wild: Man In The Sun

Dr Paul Wild: Man In The Sun

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Dr Paul Wild (17 May 1923 – 10 May 2008) was a mathematician, physicist and the Chairman of CSIRO for seven years.

Black and white image of taken in 1955 showing Dr Paul Wild looking up at one of the position interferometer rhombic aerials erected at Dapto

Dr Paul Wild in 1955 looking up at one of the position interferometer rhombic aerials erected at Dapto.

J. P. Wild was born in Sheffield, England in 1923. He studied mathematics and physics at Cambridge University, from which he received the degrees B.A., M.A. and Sc.D in 1943, 1950 and 1962 respectively.

In 1947, after graduation and wartime services as a radar officer with the Royal Navy, he joined the Department of Radiophysics at the then CSIR with his to be life-long colleague and fellow Yorkshireman John Bolton. Thus began a story of scientific discovery about the universe through the radio ‘eyes’ of the new breed of electronic astronomers.

He became fascinated by the closest star to us – the Sun and led the expanding team that built and operated the original solar radiospectrographs and later the Culgoora radioheliograph. In the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s the Culgoora group led the world in solar research attracting prominent solar physicists from around the world.

He was Chief of the CSIRO Division of Radiophysics from 1971 until 1978 where he led the team that developed the Interscan aircraft landing system that was adopted in 1978 as the international standard.

In 1978 he was appointed Chairman of CSIRO, a position he held until 1985. He was then Chairman of the Very Fast Train Joint Venture from 1986-91.

A father of three, he was a knowledgeable classical music lover (in particular he enjoyed music by Beethoven), an impersonator, an expert at The Times crossword puzzles and chess, a railway enthusiast, a social cricketer and a walking encyclopaedia of cricket knowledge. Another enduring interest was the game of Bridge, which required both a mathematical mind and a good memory.

The importance of Wild’s work was recognised by many awards including:

  • a CBE 1978 and AC 1985
  • Edgeworth David Medal, Royal Society of New South Wales 1958
  • Foreign Honorary Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1961
  • Foreign Member, American Philosophical Society 1962
  • Fellow, Australian Academy of Science 1964
  • Corresponding Member, Royal Society of Liege 1969
  • Hendryk Arctowski Gold Medal, US National Academy of Sciences 1969
  • Balthasar van der Pol Gold Medal, International Union of Radio Science 1969
  • Fellow, Royal Society 1970
  • first Herschel Medal, Royal Astronomical Society 1974
  • Matthew Flinders Lecturer, Australian Academy of Science 1974
  • Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal, Australian Academy of Science 1975
  • Fellow, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering 1977
  • Hale Prize for Solar Astronomy, American Astronomical Society 1980
  • ANZAAS Medal 1984
  • Hartnet Medal, Royal Society of Arts London 1988
  • President, Radio Astronomy Commission, International Astronomical Union 1967-70
  • Foreign Secretary, Australian Academy of Science 1973-77.