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George Miley recieves honorary doctorate in Dublin

Leiden emeritus professor George Miley receives an honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin on 8 December. ‘I never dreamed that I would receive an honorary doctorate somewhere, and this is all the more emotional because it's in the city where I spent the first 21 years of my life.’

Miley’s research area is remote radio galaxies.  In 1997 he took the initiative for LOFAR, a revolutionary radio telescope with stations throughout Europe. He is (co-) author of more than 350 scientific articles. He previously won the Shell Oeuvre Prize, he was a KNAW professor and in 2012, Miley became a Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion for his services to astronomy and society. Miley is a great advocate of the use of astronomy as a tool for the education and development of especially young children. For this he founded the successful program Universe Awareness.

Astronomy in Ireland

The honorary doctorate was a huge surprise and very humbling, Miley says. ‘I never dreamed that I would receive an honorary doctorate from anyone and it is a particularly emotional for me that it came from Trinity College Dublin, in the city where I spent the first 21 years of my life. Trinity College is the oldest university in Ireland and a defining landmark in the center of Dublin.’

Miley regards the honorary doctorate as more than just a personal distinction. ‘I think it’s a sign that optical and radio astronomy have become important for Ireland. In the last year Ireland joined the European Southern Observatory and built a LOFAR station. It is located at Birr Castle, the site of the world’s largest optical telescope in the 19th century. It is also linked to the core of LOFAR at Exloo. I am sure that this will help reinforce the scientific links between Ireland and the Netherlands.’

Astronomy driving technology

The resurgence of Irish astronomy has been supported strongly and partly driven by Irish industrialists and entrepreneurs, Miley notes. ‘They recognize the role of modern astronomy in driving cutting-edge technology.’ This leads to the third reason why Miley is so happy about the distinction. ‘My honorary doctorate was awarded partly for my role in devising and setting up the International Astronomical Union Astronomy for Development programme. This exploits unique scientific technological and cultural aspects of astronomy as a tool for capacity building. Two days before the ceremony for me at Trinity College, I attended the conferral of an honorary doctorate at University College Dublin, the other Dublin university of which I am a graduate. The person receiving the award was Naledi Pandor, the charismatic South African Minister of Science and Technology who has been an ambassador of science for the development of Africa, particularly astronomy.  Minister Pandor accepted our invitation to visit Leiden at the end of February, as honorary professor at the Oort Chair for Astronomy for Development. She will give her lecture in the Groot Auditorium on 26 February. '

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