Solar scientist appointed Royal Society Fellow

Sunday 12 May 2002

An Applied Mathematician from the University of St Andrews has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society – a highly prestigious honour which represents the greatest academic recognition for a scientist in the United Kingdom.

Professor Eric Priest of the University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics joins St Andrews only other Royal Society Fellow, Professor Wilson Sibbett. This year, Professor Priest is one of only two Fellows elected from a Scottish University.

“I am really delighted with this unexpected honour and regard it as a recognition for the superb world- class research that the Solar Group in St Andrews has been doing, especially my long-term colleagues Bernard Roberts and Alan Hood, and a brilliant series of research students and postdocs. I feel very fortunate indeed to be part of such a vibrant and supportive group,” said Professor Priest.

Professor Priest is a member of the Solar Theory Group within the School of Mathematics and Statistics, and his research has involved developing mathematical models for fundamental dynamic processes at work in the Sun, and elsewhere in the universe. In particular, he has studied the ways that solar flares occur and how magnetic fields can heat the atmosphere of the Sun to millions of degrees centigrade. The St Andrew’s Group is one of the main solar theory groups in the world attempting to explain the many puzzling new observations of the Sun from a series of American, Japanese and European space satellites.

Professor Priest has written or edited nearly 20 books and nearly 400 research papers including a research monograph on “Solar Magnetohydrodynamics”, which has become the standard in the field of solar science, and recently completed a 600-page book published by Cambridge University Press on “Magnetic Reconnection”.

It is the second honour to be bestowed upon Professor Priest this year – next month, he will be formally awarded the 2002 Hale Prize, an award granted every two years by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). It is the highest award of the AAS for a solar physicist and is normally awarded at the peak of a scientist’s career for a lifetime’s work.

Dr Brian Lang, Principal and Vice- Chancellor of the University said, “I am delighted for Professor Priest and this is appropriate recognition of his very significant scientific achievements. At the University of St Andrews, we are proud to have him as a colleague. Furthermore, the very fact that Professor Priest is one of only two Fellows elected from a Scottish University is a credit to the institution.”

Professor Priest will be admitted to the Royal Society together with the other new fellows at a ceremony in London in July.




The Royal Society is the UK’s national academy of science. It is the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence and has been at the forefront of enquiry and discovery since its foundation in 1660. Its aims include recognising and supporting excellence in science, stimulating international interaction, furthering the role of science in society, promoting education on science issues and providing independent authoritative advice on matters relating to science, engineering and technology. Its sister society is the British Academy, founded in 1902, which is the national academy for the humanities and social sciences.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Claire Grainger – 01334 462530 or 07730 415 015 Ref: ericpriest-rsf View the latest University news at

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