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HartRAO Home > news > In Memorium: Dr. Michael (Mike) Gaylard 2014/08/14

In Memorium: Dr. Michael (Mike) Gaylard

It is with a great sense of loss that we have to announce the passing away of Dr. Mike Gaylard, Director of the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory, a National Facility of the National Research Foundation.

The memorial for Mike Gaylard was be held at HartRAO, Friday 22 August. Memorial Programme

Mike was born on July 1 1952 in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe). He attended school in Salisbury and did his B.Sc. at the University of Rhodesia, followed by his B.Sc. Honours. He then came to Rhodes University in South Africa, and completed his M.Sc. on “The Performance of a 22 GHz Radio Telescope” in November 1976.

He joined the staff of the NITR (National Institute for Telecommunications Research), the parent institute of HartRAO on 1 December 1976. During 1977-78 he worked at NITR in the ionospheric propagation section and joined the HartRAO staff in January 1979. His first project at HartRAO was to commission the recently completed digital correlation spectrometer. He used this for his initial research work at HartRAO which was in the field of HII regions and recombination lines at 2.3 GHz. He was also the system manager for the HP computers used for controlling the telescope and associated equipment. He developed much of the software for automating observations and for analysing spectral line data.

He completed his Ph.D. on “Radio Studies of Ionised Hydrogen in the Southern Milky Way”, using the HartRAO 26m telescope, in 1989. His work branched out into the field of 1612 MHz OH masers with the installation of the 18cm receiver in 1985. His field of work then enlarged to include methanol masers in star forming regions, where he collaborated extensively with Dr. Gordon Macleod (then of HartRAO) and Dr. Johan van der Walt of University of the North West. With the expansion of staff members at HartRAO, he became the leader of the Spectral Lines Programme and had some 70+ publications to his name. He supervised M.Sc. and Ph.D students, especially with Dr. Johan van der Walt at NWU, and then expanded to other universities as well. Some research staff members from HartRAO have gone on to become part of the SKA project.

He also headed the Science Awareness Outreach Programme at HartRAO from 1991. Creating an awareness of science in young people was one of his passions. Several staff members from the HartRAO Science Awareness Programme have also gone on to be part of the SKA project.

Mike was instrumental in the conceptualisation of the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Network (AVN), a vision to have a network of radio astronomy telescopes throughout Africa, and actively participated in and championed its development. The AVN has the potential to spread radio astronomy as a science across the African continent.

He was among the key people who helped get the National Astronomy and Space Science Programme (NASSP) started. The NASSP school at HartRAO was something he enjoyed organizing and which has helped introduce a generation of SA astronomers to the practicalities of radio observing. He also understood that South African astronomers would do so much better working together than in their individual silos.

In an international context, Mike was the driving force behind South Africa’s membership of the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE), which carries out a wide range of research and development activities in VLBI-related fields, including radio astronomy data processing and applications of VLBI and radio astronomy technologies.

Mike Gaylard had the ability to make time to talk to and encourage students, even within a very busy schedule. To many young people he set a great example as a leader and a scientist. He will be sorely missed by family, colleagues and students.