Richard Q. Twiss
Richard Q. Twiss (1920 –
20 May, 2005) is famous for his work on the Hanbury-Brown and Twiss effectwith Robert Hanbury Brown. This led to the development of the Hanbury Brown-Twiss intensity interferometerin the UK in 1954. Their work was controversial as it appeared to contradict the established beliefs about quantum interference. He and Brown received the Eddington Medalof the Royal Astronomical Societyfor their work in 1968.
Richard Twiss was born in Simla in
Indiabut was educated in England. He read mathematicsat Cambridge, completing the Mathematical Triposwith distinction, but his early contributions were to the theory of radarand basic electronics. His work in this area wasincluded in the famous "five foot shelf"--a series of reference books in electronic engineeringcompiled at MITthat was the circuit designer's bible in the 1950s. He was awarded a Doctor of Sciencedegree by MIT in 1949.
Twiss went on to help construct the
Narrabri Stellar Intensity Interferometer. Observations with the interferometer began in 1965. Measurements made between 1965 and 1974 were used to establish the temperature scale for stars hotter than the Sunand this scale is still in use.
The intensity interferometer has a very poor signal-to-noise ratio compared to the classical "Michelson" stellar interferometer. Twiss decided to pursue the Michelson alternative at the National Physical Laboratory at
Teddingtonin the UK. John Davis worked with him for a short while on this project.
Royal Observatory, Edinburghestablished its outstation at Monte Porzio Catonejust south of Rome, Twiss decided to move his Michelson interferometer there. Not only was the weather more conducive to astronomy, the food and wine were much superior to what was available in Teddington!
Speckle interferometry was discovered during that period by Antoine Labeyrie. This stimulated a renewed interest around the world in interferometry. In particular, John Davis and Hanbury Brown became convinced that a Michelson interferometer would be cheaper to build and have superior performance to a new intensity interferometer.
In the mid-1970s Twiss's non-scientific interests gradually took over and he effectively retired from active involvement in science.
In the 1970s he made it clear that he regarded
Australiaas a colonial backwater. His reaction when told that William J. Tangowas going to join Davis and Brown in Sydney was typical. "But William," he said, "they eat peas out of tins!"
In spite of that, a few years before his death Twiss visited Australia and fell in love with it. In 2004 he applied for permanent residence. He died on 19 May 2005.
He is mentioned in the book "BOFFIN : A Personal Story of the Early Days of Radar, Radio Astronomy and Quantum Optics" ISBN 0-7503-0130-9, by Hanbury Brown
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