Leon Mestel (5 August 1927 – 15 September 2017) was a British-Australian astronomer and astrophysicist and Emeritus Professor at the University of Sussex. His research interests were in the areas of star formation and structure, especially stellar magnetism and astrophysical magnetohydrodynamics. He was awarded both the Eddington Medal (1993) and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (for Astronomy, 2002). Following his retirement, he wrote several obituaries and biographical articles on physicists and astrophysicists.
|Born||5 August 1927|
|Died||15 September 2017 (aged 90)|
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A.) (1948)|
Trinity College, Cambridge (PhD) (1952)
|Awards||Eddington Medal (1993)|
|Thesis||Some problems of stellar structure (1952)|
|Doctoral advisor||Fred Hoyle|
|Doctoral students||Donald Lynden-Bell|
Early life and familyEdit
Leon Mestel was born on 5 August 1927 in Melbourne, Australia to Solomon Mestel, a rabbi and Rachel (née Brodetsky), a schoolteacher and sister of Selig Brodetsky. With his family, he migrated to England at the age of three, where he lived in Forest Gate, east London. He was educated at West Ham Secondary School, London, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained his BA in 1948 and his PhD in 1952.
He married Sylvia Louise Cole (d. 2014) in 1951, and they had two sons, Ben and Jonathan and two daughters Rosie and Leo. One of his sons is Jonathan Mestel (born 1957), a mathematics professor and chess grandmaster. In 1982, as part of a memorial series of annual lectures at the University of Leeds commemorating his maternal uncle, Leon Mestel gave the 23rd Selig Brodetsky Memorial Lecture, titled Astronomy: A Mirror to Physics.
At the time he was completing his PhD, Mestel took a position as an ICI Research Fellow at the Department of Mathematics in the University of Leeds, carrying out research there in the three-year period from 1951 to 1954. Also during this period, in 1952, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS). Mestel then spent the academic year of 1954–5 as a Commonwealth Fund Fellow at the Observatory at Princeton University.
Returning to England, he was a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Cambridge for eleven years from 1955 to 1966, first as an assistant lecturer (1955–1958) and then as a full lecturer (1958–1966). While at Cambridge, he was a Fellow of St John's College from 1957 to 1966. This time at Cambridge included a period as a visiting member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, during the academic year of 1961–2.
In 1963, he published a paper describing a phenomenon that occurs during galaxy and star formation that came to be known as a 'Mestel disk'.
Mestel left Cambridge in 1966 after being appointed to the position of professor at the University of Manchester, but before taking up his appointment there he spent the academic year of 1966–7 as JFK Fellow at the Weizmann Institute, Israel. Returning to England, he spent six years as professor of applied mathematics in Manchester (1967–1973). The fourth and final stage of his career was as professor of astronomy at the University of Sussex, a position he took up in 1973 and held for nineteen years.
Awards and honoursEdit
After retiring, Mestel wrote several obituaries and biographical articles on physicists and astrophysicists for publications such as The Independent, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. Those for whom Mestel wrote obituaries and articles include Martin Schwarzschild, Roger John Tayler, William McCrea, Hermann Bondi, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, and Thomas George Cowling. Mestel also contributed the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Selig Brodetsky.
In 2002, Mestel was an invited speaker at a conference held in Cardiff, Wales, in memory of Fred Hoyle. In 2004, together with John D. Barrow, Mestel organised a Commemoration Meeting at the Royal Astronomical Society to mark 60 years since the death of Arthur Eddington, publishing a paper on Eddington later the same year. In 2009, Mestel featured in Portraits of Astronomers, a book by Lucinda Douglas-Menzies with portraits of thirty-eight leading UK astronomers. In 2008, he moved back to his family in Cambridge, where he died in September 2017.
- 'Why Does the Sun Shine?', essay in The Emerging Universe (1972)
- Stellar Magnetism (1999), leading monograph on the subject
- Stellar Magnetism (2003), later edition of the earlier work
- 'Stellar Rotation: A Historical Survey', chapter in Stellar Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics (2003)
- 'Astrophysical MHD – The Early Years', chapter in Magnetohydrodynamics (2007)
- Leon Mestel at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- Rowan-Robinson, Michael (20 September 2017). "Leon Mestel obituary". The Guardian.
- Mestel, L. (1999). "Martin Schwarzschild. 31 May 1912 -- 10 April 1997: Elected For.Mem.R.S. 1996". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 45: 469. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1999.0031.
- Mestel, L.; Pagel, B. E. J. (2007). "William Hunter McCrea. 13 December 1904 -- 25 April 1999: Elected FRS 1952". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 53: 223. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2007.0005.
- Mestel, L. (1991). "Thomas George Cowling. 17 June 1906 – 16 June 1990". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 37: 104–126. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1991.0006.
- Mestel, L.; Pagel, B. E. J. (1998). "Roger John Tayler, O. B. E.. 25 October 1929 – 23 January 1997". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 44: 405–416. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1998.0026.
- MESTEL, Prof. Leon, Who's Who 2010, A & C Black, 2010; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2009; online edn, Nov 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2010
- Prof Leon Mestel, FRS Archived 8 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Debrett's People of Today. Retrieved 7 November 2010
- "Obituary: Leon Mestel (1927–2017)". Brighton, UK: University of Sussex. 20 September 2017.
- Astronomy: A Mirror to Physics, University of Leeds Review, 1982 (entry at worldcat.org)
- On the galactic law of rotation, Leon Mestel, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 126, p.553, 1963
- The Early History of the Astronomy Centre, University of Sussex. Retrieved 6 November 2010
- "The Society's Notes", Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 32 (1): 107–112, 1977, doi:10.1098/rsnr.1977.0009, JSTOR 531768
- Leon Mestel Archived 12 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sussex. Retrieved 6 November 2010
- Citation for the award of the Eddington Medal to Professor Leon Mestel, QJRAS (1993), volume 34, pages 275–276
- Winners of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 6 November 2010
- 2002 February meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society (announcement of the award), The Observatory, Vol. 122, p. 194-199, 2002
- 2002 April meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society (presentation of the award), The Observatory, Vol. 122, p. 242-246, 2002
- Obituary: Professor Martin Schwarzschild, Leon Mestel, The Independent, Saturday, 19 April 1997
- Obituary: Professor Roger Tayler, Leon Mestel, The Independent, Tuesday, 28 January 1997
- Leon Mestel, Tayler, Roger John (1929–1997), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Retrieved 7 November 2010
- Leon Mestel, McCrea, Sir William Hunter (1904–1999), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, Oct 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2010
- Mestel, L. (2005). "Obituary: Hermann Bondi (1919–2005) Mathematician, cosmologist and public servant". Nature. 437 (7060): 828. Bibcode:2005Natur.437..828M. doi:10.1038/437828a. PMID 16208358.
- Leon Mestel, Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan (1910–1995), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Retrieved 7 November 2010
- Obituary: Professor Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Leon Mestel, The Independent, Thursday, 24 August 1995
- Leon Mestel, Cowling, Thomas George (1906–1990), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Retrieved 7 November 2010
- Leon Mestel, Brodetsky, Selig (1888–1954), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Retrieved 7 November 2010
- Fred Hoyle Memorial Conference Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology. Retrieved 7 November 2010
- Barrow, J. D.; Mestel, L. (2004). "Eddington: Leading the field". Astronomy and Geophysics. 45 (3): 3.10. Bibcode:2004A&G....45c..10B. doi:10.1046/j.1468-4004.2003.45310.x.
- Arthur Stanley Eddington: pioneer of stellar structure theory, Leon Mestel, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage: Volume 7[permanent dead link], Number 2, December 2004, pp.65–73
- Portraits of Astronomers, website of Lucinda Douglas-Menzies. Retrieved 6 November 2010
- This 2008 photograph of Mestel is also available from the AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives: see Mestel Leon A1 (4 April 2008).