Sir William John Granville Beynon

24 May 1914-11 March 1996, Welsh physicist

Prof. Beynon, 1979
Professor Tor Hagfors (left), photographed with Professor W J G Beyon at the EISCAT  Sodankylä site, in 1979. @ EISCAT Scientific Association

Beynon was born i Dunvant near Swansea and received his education at Gowerton Grammar School, before matriculating to the University of Swansea, where he studied physics. In 1938 he gained a position at National Physical Laboratory at Slough, near London, working closely with Sir Edward Victor Appleton, who detected the terrestrial ionosphere. Together they performed basic studies of radio wave propagation by reflection from these layers. This co-operation persisted over a few decades, during which Beynon as representative of Sir Edward held senior offices in national and international committees.

Beynon showed great skills as an international statesman of science and was heavily involved in the original International Geophysical Year, 1957-58, which was a break-through in international cooperation in geophysics

Beynon became thereafter one of the leading personalities in international scientific cooperation, in particular in the International Union of Radio Science (URSI). Beynon played an important role in the establishing of EISCAT, by which progress was reached in understanding particular atmospheric phenomena at high latitudes. From 1972 to 1975 Beynon was president of both the International Union of Radio Science, and of EISCAT.

EISCAT was the result of genuine international co-operation. France provided the original idea, Scandinavia provided the Aurora Borealis, Germany were the first to put money on the table, but it took a Welshman to show the political skill which brought the scientists and administrators together to establish a very successful international facility. In 1973 the EISCAT proposal – which was originally planned for France, Germany and the three Nordic countries – seemed moribund. Then Beynon became involved and by 1975 the agreement had been signed, with the UK as a member. As a matter of fact, the proposal for UK membership had been turned down by the appropriate SRC committee, but Beynon was not one to give up. At a historic meeting Beynon persuaded the Board to reverse the decision of the committee. As a result of his efforts a whole generation of European scientists have had the opportunity to use the world’s most advanced ionospheric radar.


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