Robert Hanbury Brown was a British astronomer and physicist born 31 August 1916 in Aruvankadu , India. Brown studied at the University of London, from where he received a Master's degree in 1935. From 1936 to 1942 he worked for the Air Ministry, where he helped to develop radar. In 1942, he travelled to the United States, spending 3 years in Washington, D.C., where he worked with the Combined Research Group at the Naval Research Laboratory. After World War 2, he was head of the navigation division of the Ministry of Supply , where he helped formulate plans for the construction of telecommunications plants.
Between 1949 and 1964 Brown was a Professor of Physics at the University of Manchester. There he developed some of the earliest devices to be used in radio astronomy. He worked at the Jodrell Bank Observatory outside of Cheshire on, developing, among other things radio intensity interferometers and the first optical stellar intensity interferometer . Using the optical Narrabri Stellar Intensity Interferometer he was the first person to measure the diameter of the star Sirius. From 1964 until 1981 he worked at the University of Sydney, measuring the diameters of many of the brightest stars in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1971 he was awarded the Hughes Medal for his contributions for his efforts in developing the optical stellar intensity interferometer and for his observations of Spica. In 1982 he was named President of the International Astronomical Union, a title he retained until the end of his term in 1985.
He died on 16 January 2002 in Andover, Hampshire.
- A test of a new type of stellar interferometer on Sirius Nature, Vol. 178, pp. 1046 1956
- The angular diameters of 32 stars Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., Vol. 167, pp 121-136 1974