Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe

Term of office from to

Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe (born 20th January 1939) is a Sri Lankan-born British Mathematician, Astronomer and Astrobiologist. He studied at the Royal College, Colombo. and graduated in 1960 from the University of Ceylon  with a B Sc First Class Honors in Mathematics. Prof Wickramasinghe obtained his PhD and ScD degrees from Trinity College and Jesus College, Cambridge respectively.

Prof Wickramasinghe's research interests include the interstellar medium, infrared astronomy, light scattering theory, applications of solid-state physics to astronomy, the early Solar System, comets, astrochemistry, the origin of life and astrobiology. As a student and collaborator of Fred Hoyle, Wickramasinghe further proposed a radical kind of panspermia that included the claim that extraterrestrial life forms enter the Earth's atmosphere and were possibly responsible for epidemic outbreaks, new diseases, and genetic novelty that Hoyle and Wickramasinghe contended was necessary for macroevolution. In 1974, they proposed the hypothesis that some dust in interstellar space is largely organic, which was later proven to be correct.

Wickramasinghe published the first definitive book on Interstellar Grains in 1967. He has made many contributions to this field, publishing over 350 papers in peer-reviewed journals, over 75 of which are in Nature (Nature is the world's leading multidisciplinary science journal). 

Prof Wickramasinghe was a consultant and advisor to the President of Sri Lanka from 1982 to 1984, and played a key role in founding the Institute of Fundamental Studies in Sri Lanka. He held the position of Director between 1982 to 1984. Prof Wickramasinghe was awarded Vidya Jyothi from the President of Sri Lanka in 1992. In 2017, Prof Wickramasinghe was appointed Adjunct Professor in the Department of Physics, at the University of Ruhuna, Matara, Sri Lanka.

Asian Power 100 list (2005) named Prof Wickramasinghe as one of the 100 most influential Asians living in the UK. He is currently the Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, Honorary Professor of the University of Buckingham, Editorial Board Member of Astrophysics and Space Science, Editorial Board Member of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Editor of Astrobiology for the internet journal Journal of and a Team member of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission.