Dr Ron Maddison (1935–2019)

Ron Maddison
Ron Maddison giving a talk at our then meeting place, Alliance Hall, Victoria, London, in 1978

Ron Maddison, who died on 29 December 2019 aged 84, will be remembered with affection by long-standing members. He was our president from 1977 (the society’s 25th anniversary year) to 1979, at a time when we were still the Junior Astronomical Society.

Ron was very much in the forefront of popularising astronomy. A physics lecturer at Keele University, he founded the university observatory in 1962. All undergraduates at Keele were then required to study both a science and a non-science subject, and his passion for astronomy made his courses very popular with the non-science students. 

Ron also made frequent TV appearances on the Sky at Night with Patrick Moore, and his live-wire approach to the subject made him a natural choice for the role of president of our society, succeeding Prof Jack Meadows. 

One of his first lectures to the society included a claim which seemed crazy at the time – he said that a 12-inch telescope could perform as well as a 200-inch using modern techniques. But with today’s CCDs, which are much improved on the image intensifiers then coming into use, even amateurs can now take images that rival those from big telescopes of the 1970s.

After many years at Keele, Ron went to the US to set up an observatory in Cocoa, Florida. He continued to live there until his death.

Ron Maddison with Princess Margaret
Ron (at left) also appears in this photo taken at the inauguration by Princess Margaret of the Thornton Telescope at Keele in 1975, with Patrick Moore and one of our other illustrious members, Jim Hysom second from right)


Ron on eclipse expedition
Ron in observing mode, aboard the Monte Umbe, a ship which travelled to the centreline of the long 1973 solar eclipse. Photo: Mike Maunder