University of Buckingham astrophysicist awarded MBE in New Year Honours list

Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe has been recognised for services to science, astronomy and astrobiology
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A University of Buckingham professor, whose theory that comets carry the bacteria of life is now becoming part of mainstream science, has been awarded an MBE for services to science, astronomy and astrobiology.

Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe, an honorary professor at the University of Buckingham, is a world-renowned astrophysicist and a pioneer of astrobiology.

In the late 1970s, together with the astronomer the late Sir Fred Hoyle, Prof Wickramasinghe proposed the theory that comets carry the seeds of life - bacteria and viruses - and that life is distributed throughout the universe.

Prof Chandra WickramasingheProf Chandra Wickramasinghe
Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe

According to Prof Wickramasinghe, life on earth began with the introduction of bacteria from comets 4,200 million years ago and its subsequent evolution was spurred on with the continuing arrival of new bacteria .

This theory was considered controversial at the time but is now in the mainstream of science.

Sri Lankan-born Chandra Wickramasinghe is a former Fellow of Jesus College Cambridge and founder member of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge.

He was a professor at Cardiff University from 1973 to 2010, before taking up his post at Buckingham in 2011 running the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology.

He has published over 350 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals and more than 30 books.

Prof Wickramasinghe said: “I am delighted to receive this imperial honour from Her Majesty the Queen.

"I was born in what was at the time Ceylon, a British colony, and I feel very much a child of the Empire, so accepting this award has an even greater poignance.

"I value my connection with Buckingham very much.

"I think the theory of cosmic biology that I have worked on for over 40 years will eventually change the way we think about ourselves and the cosmos.

"That process has only just begun.”

University of Buckingham vice-chancellor James Tooley said: "Prof Wickramasinghe's work has been groundbreaking and his research into comets is now moving into the mainstream of science.

"The university has benefited hugely from his many lectures on the subject over the years.

"This is a much-deserved accolade.

"I commend Prof Wickramasighe for being awarded an MBE."