British astrophysicist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974 for
his discovery of pulsars (cosmic objects that emit extremely regular
pulses of radio waves).
Hewish was educated at the University of Cambridge and in 1946 joined
the radio astronomy group there led by Sir Martin Ryle. While directing
a research project at the Mullard Radioastronomy Observatory at Cambridge
in 1967, Hewish recognized the significance of an observation made by
a graduate assistant, Jocelyn Bell. He determined that the regularly
patterned radio signals, or pulses, that Bell had detected were not
caused by earthly interference or, as some speculated, by intelligent
life forms trying to communicate with distant planets but rather were
energy emissions from certain stars. For this work in identifying pulsars
as a new class of stars, he was awarded jointly with Ryle the Nobel
Prize for Physics in 1974, the first time the prize had been given for
Hewish was professor of radio astronomy at the Cavendish Laboratory,
Cambridge, from 1971 to 1989.