SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory
03.08.2012 13:36 Age: 5 yrs
Category: SAAO Press Releases

SAAO Looking forward to welcoming a new director in 2013.


Professor Ted Williams will be taking over the reins at the SAAO in January 2013. Ted will be joining us from Rutgers University, New Jersey, US, where he is currently a Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department. Ted is a distinguished researcher within the department and has served as director of the department's Graduate Programme and as associate chair of the department from 2002 to 2005, and again since 2010.

Ted’s particular scientific interests lie in the areas of optical observations of extragalactic objects and instrument development. In particular, he is a world expert in the use of Fabry-Perot observing techniques, which he has used  to probe (amongst other things) the structure and kinematics of spiral galaxies, globular clusters and planetary nebulae.

Ted is no stranger to South Africa, the SAAO or SALT.  He has been actively involved in the development of SALT right from the get-go. Not only has he served on the board of directors of the SALT foundation since 1998, (as chairman since 2005), but he is a rarity in that he gets his hands dirty too! He was the scientist responsible for the design, manufacture and testing of the Fabry-Perot mode of the Robert Stobie Spectrograph. As such Ted is just as comfortable at formal board meetings as he is up at SALT, climbing up on the telescope, Allen key in hand!

We asked Ted to give us a little more information about himself...

“Some random facts: As a lad, I was an Eagle scout; I marched in the Purdue Band for two years and played trumpet; I was a nation-level swimming official (but never a competitive swimmer); I enjoy sailing small boats, and have some ideas in case the Sutherland Regatta is ever repeated.”  

Ted is also an animal lover. He is currently active in the sport of dog agility, and is looking forward to doing agility in South Africa. You can see he means business!


“I am a proud grandfather of a 2.5 year old who is (of course) the World's brightest child; the upper half of my body has been in the crew compartment of the Space Shuttle while it was on the launch pad. I volunteer at local elementary [primary] schools to tell 3rd graders about astronomy and lead them in hands-on astronomy activities - in this connection, I am known as `Astronomer Ted’.”

He is clearly a man with many talents! “Astronomer Ted”, you will be treated to a warm South African welcome in January.