English radio astronomer
who was awarded, with Martin Ryle, the Nobel Prize for Physics 1974
for his work on pulsars, rapidly rotating neutron stars that emit pulses
The discovery by Jocelyn Bell Burnell of a regularly fluctuating signal,
which turned out to be the first pulsar, began a period of intensive
research. Hewish discovered another three straight away, and more than
170 pulsars have been found since 1967.
Hewish was born in Cornwall and studied at Cambridge. He worked at the
Cavendish Laboratory there, and became professor at Cambridge 1972.
Before 1950, Hewish used radio telescopes mainly to study the solar
atmosphere. When new instruments became available, radio observations
were extended to sources other than the Sun. Before the discovery of
pulsars, Hewish examined the fluctuation in such sources of the intensity
of the radiation (the scintillation) resulting from disturbances in
ionized gas in the Earth's atmosphere, within the Solar System, and
in interstellar space.
Hewish has patented a system of space navigation using three pulsars
as reference points, which would provide coordinates in outer space
accurate up to a few hundred kilometres.