Elected F.R.S. 1975
Robert Wilson had broad scientific interests that ranged from laboratory and solar plasmas to quasars. In his early career at Harwell he made fundamental studies of the plasma device Zeta, and discovered a group of extreme ultraviolet emission lines that were also present but unidentified in the solar spectrum. Subsequent work at Culham showed that these were due to highly ionized iron. He initiated a programme of observations using stabilized Skylark rockets that led to the discovery of many important emission lines in the solar ultraviolet spectrum and gave new information on the structure of the solar transition region. He was the founder of ultraviolet astronomy in the UK and led the team that provided the S2½68 instrument on the TD–1 satellite. Ultraviolet astronomy became his main interest after his move to University College London. He was the intellectual driving force that eventually led to the outstandingly successful International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), which was the first satellite to be easily accessible to the astronomical community. His interests in astronomy were diverse and, using results from both TD–1 and the IUE, he made significant contributions through his studies of the interstellar medium, hot stars, binary X–ray sources and quasars.