Malcolm Longair

Malcolm Longair
Malcolm Longair

Malcolm Longair
Born May 18, 1941
Dundee, Scotland
Fields Natural Philosophy
Institutions Cambridge University
Alma mater Cambridge

Malcolm Sim Longair FRS is a British physicist. He was the Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University, England from 1991 to 2008.



He was born on May 18, 1941, and educated at Morgan Academy, Dundee, Scotland. He graduated in Electronic Physics from Queen's College, Dundee, of the University of St. Andrews in 1963. He became a research student in the Radio Astronomy Group of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, where he completed his Ph.D. in 1967.


From 1968 to 1969, he was a Royal Society Exchange Visitor to the Lebedev Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, where he worked with academics V.L. Ginzburg and Ya. B. Zeldovich.

He held a Fellowship of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 from 1966 to 1968 and was a Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge from 1967 to 1980. He has held visiting professorships at the California Institute of Technology (1972), the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (1978), the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (1990) and the Space Telescope Science Institute (1997). From 1980 to 1990, he held the joint posts of Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Regius Professor of Astronomy of the University of Edinburgh and Director of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. He is a Professorial Fellow and Vice-President of Clare Hall, Cambridge. He was Deputy Head of the Cavendish Laboratory with special responsibility for the teaching of physics from 1991 to 1997, and Head of the Cavendish Laboratory from 1997 to 2005.


He has received numerous awards, including the first Britannica Award for the Dissemination of Learning and the Enrichment of Life in February 1986. In December 1990, he delivered the series of Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Young People on television on the topic 'The Origins of Our Universe'. From 1991 to 1992 he was President of the Physics Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He was awarded the 1994 Science Prize of the Saltire Society-Royal Bank of Scotland Annual award. In 1995, he was Selby Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences and took a lecture demonstration entitled 'Measuring the Fundamentals' round all the state capitals of Australia. He was the chairman of the Gemini Board, the international project to build 8-metre telescopes in the northern and southern hemispheres, for the years 1994 and 1995. He was Chairman of the Space Telescope Science Institute Council for 1995-6. He was President of the Royal Astronomical Society 1996-8. He was awarded the CBE in the 2000 New Year Honours List.

Research interests

His primary research interests are in the fields of high energy astrophysics and astrophysical cosmology. He has written eight books and many articles on this work. His most recent publication is the second edition of his Theoretical Concepts in Physics, released in December 2003. His other interests include music, mountain walking, art, architecture and golf.


  • Longair, Malcolm S (2008), "Maxwell and the science of colour.", Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences 366 (1871): 1685–96, 2008 May 28, doi:10.1098/rsta.2007.2178, PMID 18222905 

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