UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy


Noted Alumni

Many famous faces and distinguished physicists and astronomers began their careers at UCL.

Nobel Prize Winners

Prof. Sir William Henry Bragg (1862-1942)

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1915
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1915 was awarded jointly to Sir William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg "for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays".

Prof. Francis Harry Compton Crick (1916-2004)

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962 was awarded jointly to Francis Harry Compton Crick, James Dewey Watson and Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material".

Prof. Sir Owen Willans Richardson (1879-1959)

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1928
"for his work on the thermionic phenomenon and especially for the discovery of the law named after him" .

Significant Historical Figures

Professor Margaret Burbidge (1919-2020)

UCL alumna and former UCL Observatory staff member who played a key role in our understanding of the origin of chemical elements synthesised in stars. A groundbreaking astrophysicist, Margaret studied both as an undergraduate and postgraduate at UCL, completing her PhD in 1943, and working at the UCL Observatory during World War II.

Prof. Leonardo Castillejo (1924-1995)

To students brought up in an age of publish or perish, Leonardo must seem like a glaring anomaly. He was somebody who loved discussing new ideas in depth with students, colleagues, and visitors and his ability to get to the crux of the problem, no matter what the field, made him widely respected and admired, despite the fact that his name has been on fewer papers than many current postdoctoral fellows!

Obituaries from Physics World and the Independent newspaper.

Prof. Sir Harrie Massey (1908-1983)

Massey was Head of the Physics Department from 1950 until 1973, by which time Physics had been merged with Astrophysics.

He was the first chairman of the British National Committee for Space Research, the first Chairman of the European Space Sciences Committee and helped found the European Space Research Organization as well as the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at UCL.

Prof. Sir. Robert Wilson (1927-2002)

One of the pioneers for the development of the Great Space Observatories, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Bob was best known for his role as "father" of the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) satellite. 

Obituary from The Guardian

Other Notable Figures

Clabon Walter (C W) Allen

The first Perren Professor at UCL and former director of the University of London Observatory (ULO).

Edward Andrade

Worked on the wave nature of gamma rays, and on X-ray spectra. He was Quain Professor of Physics at the University of London from 1928 to 1950.

Alexander Boksenberg FRS CBE 

Won the 1999 Hughes Medal of the Royal Society "for his landmark discoveries concerning the nature of active galactic nuclei, the physics of the intergalactic medium and of the interstellar gas in primordial galaxies".

R L F Boyd

Director of the Space Science Laboratory.

Eric Henry Stoneley Burhop

Worked on the Manhattan Project, USA 1945-50, won the Lenin Peace Prize 1972, President or the World Federation of Scientific Workers 1971-80. and founding member of the Pugwash committee.

Paul Davies OA

Awarded an Order of Australia (OA) in 2007, and a recipient of the Templeton Prize, the Kelvin Medal, and the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize. His research focuses on the 'big questions' of existence, ranging from the origin of the universe to the origin of life and the nature of time.

Michael J. Seaton FRS

An influential mathematician, atomic physicist and astronomer, he held the Presidency of the Royal Astronomical Society [RAS] between 1979 and 1981, and was awarded its Gold Medal in 1983. This was followed by the Guthrie Medal and Prize, from the Institute of Physics in 1984, and the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society in 1992.

Frank Russell Stannard OBE

Awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 for ‘contributions to physics, the Open University, and the popularisation of science’, and a recipient of the Templeton prize in 1986.