Episode 30: December 27th 2009 Prof. Barrie Jones

Forty years ago a revolutionary higher education institution for adults was established in the UK. Students enrolled in the Open University two years later in 1971. This model of higher education has now spread across the globe.

Today, the Open University plays a strong and active role in the exploration of space in collaboration with ESA and NASA. The first bit of human technology to touch the surface of  Titan was an instrument made by a team at the OU under Professor  John Zarnecki. The unsuccessful Beagle 2 mission to Mars was headed by OU Professor Colin Pillinger.  Currently, it is working on  projects including Darwin, Stardust, Rosette and Genesis.

Today’s episode is a special recording with Professor Barrie Jones of the Open University. Special because during the Eighties, I studied several of the courses which he helped to develop and presented on the the late night OU TV programs.

Professor Jones joined the Open University in 1972 and since 2006 is the emeritus professor of astronomy.  He recalls people he worked with at Cornell including Tom Gold, Frank Drake, Carl Sagan and the early days of Gamma Ray astronomy from balloons.

His distinguished career has spanned several decades, arguably the most scientifically productive decades in the history of astronomy, over that time, his research has spanned the electromagnetic spectrum. Although retired, he continues to write, research and lecture mainly in Astrobiology.

Initially he started working on Gamma Rays at Bristol University and then Infra Red astronomy during his time at Cornell. I asked if he had been involved with radio and optical astronomy too?


As the UK government recently announced further cuts in the higher education budget, today’s quote is from Derek Bok .

If you think education is expensive – try ignorance.

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