The South African Radio Astronomy community is saddened by the news of the recent passing of Professor Roy Booth

Prof. Roy Booth

The South African Radio Astronomy community is saddened by the news of the recent passing of Professor Roy Booth in Sweden after a period of deteriorating health. Roy was a prominent figure in global radio astronomy, and he dedicated his later active years to the development of the discipline in South Africa and the rest of the African continent. Roy’s social consciousness compelled him to make a contribution to the development of science in Africa.

Roy obtained his PhD from the University of Manchester under the direction of Professor Rod Davies at Jodrell Bank. After his time at Jodrell Bank he moved to Sweden where he was Director of the Onsala Space Observatory and Professor at Chalmers University of Technology. In 2006 Roy and his wife Shirley moved to South Africa, and Roy joined the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory as Science Director. He subsequently held the position of Professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Pretoria before returning to Sweden when he finally retired from active research.

Roy leaves a massive legacy to the global radio astronomy community. His graduate students have themselves become leaders in the field, including Professor Phil Diamond, now Director General of the SKAO. He was a great proponent of international cooperation and collaboration, and was a key figure in the expansion of the network of VLBI stations and the establishment of the ALMA observatory. While in South Africa he led the development of the science case for the MeerKAT radio telescope and he engaged the global radio astronomy community in the project through an open call for large-scale projects that would define the scientific capabilities of the telescope. The unprecedented success of the MeerKAT was celebrated at the MeerKAT@5 conference in Stellenbosch last week. Roy would have been proud of what has been achieved in South Africa, facilitated by his experience and guidance.

Roy will be missed by radio astronomers around the world as a colleague and as a friend, and also as a ferocious defender of his principles and values. We extend our condolences to Shirley and the rest of their family, and will celebrate his legacy in the years to come in the manner in which he would have approved: reminiscing about his achievements and antics over one of his favorite beverages.