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Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS

Brocklesby Park Estate, Lincolnshire.

June 26th 2008



Sir Arnold Whittaker Wolfendale FRS

June 25th. 1927 - December 21st. 2020


Arnold Wolfendale was one of the outstanding Physicists of his age, he held many presidencies and honorary positions; elected Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1973 and Fellow of the Royal Society in 1977 an accolade of which he was inordinately proud, “…to sign the register along with Newton, and Einstein was an honour.”


Arnold’s increasing interest in Astronomy whilst at Durham moved him to persuade many Physicists to come over to the ‘other side’ and study observational Astronomy; some believe this influenced his appointment as the fourteenth Astronomer Royal in 1991.


Arnold served on many Government Advisory Committees and lobbied officialdom to fund scientific research, not excluding the young. He was a great engaging teacher, one remembers him in his eighties standing on a chair enthralling the school assembly like some latter-day magician or ringmaster loving every minute. His passion for educating particularly the young still had all the vigour of a young man with a vision to change the world.


Arnold’s first wife Audrey, was originator of the Astronomer Royal Crest, “…no one had ever thought to invent one.” A long held interest in the curious 18th. century Natural Philosopher John Harrison moved Arnold to investigate the possibility of national recognition for the man, now embodied in the memorial stone to Harrison in West Minster Abbey, unveiled on the 24th. March 2006 by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It was the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers that mounted the appeal for the memorial.


Keen to support the John Harrison Committee formed in 2007, later gaining foundation status in 2009, believing it a future legacy for Harrison, Arnold became the Foundations inaugural patron. John Harrison Foundation is honoured to be granted permission in perpetuity to use the fourteenth Astronomer Royal Crest.


Arnold’s directness, seen by some as formidable, he was indeed, in so much that his passion was for cooperation, truth and understanding for humanity. Arnold was known to be a warm and generous man; the Wolfendale household was legendary for its hospitality, Arnold, often chef de cuisine with a full house of eclectic souls and extended lunches was very much the order of the day.

Audrey passed away in 2007 and Arnold married the anthropologist Dorothy Middleton in 2015.


Arnold remained emeritus professor of physics at Durham until his passing in December 2020.


A scholar, humanitarian and a gentleman to the last.

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