English radioastronomer. At
the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridge, he developed the
technique of sky-mapping using 'aperture synthesis', combining smaller
dish aerials to give the characteristics of one large one. His work
on the distribution of radio sources in the universe brought confirmation
of the Big Bang theory. He won, with his co-worker Antony Hewish, the
Nobel Prize for Physics 1974.
Ryle was born in Brighton, Sussex, and studied at Oxford. During World
War II he was involved in the development of radar. After the war he
joined the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, and in 1959 he became
the first Cambridge professor of radioastronomy, responsible for most
of the radiotelescope developments. He was Astronomer Royal 1972-82.
Larger and larger radio telescopes were built at the Cambridge sites,
resulting in the Cambridge Catalogue Surveys, numbered 1C-5C, giving
better and better maps of radio sources in the northern sky. The 3C
survey, published 1959, is used as reference by all radioastronomers.
The 4C survey catalogued 5,000 sources.
The first 'supersynthesis' telescope, in which a fixed aerial maps a
band of the sky using solely the rotation of the Earth, and another
aerial maps successive rings out from it concentrically, was built in
1963, and a 5-km/3-mi instrument was completed in 1971. The programmes
for which it is in use includes the mapping of extragalactic sources
and the study of supernovae and newly born stars. It can provide as
sharp a picture as the best ground-based optical telescopes.