Director of the Astrophysics Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast, and Patron of Humanists UK
Born and raised in Belfast, Professor Smartt went to Queen’s University to study Physics and Applied Maths, and later pursued a PhD in Astrophysics. After this, he worked in the Canary Islands at the UK’s Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes and became a Fellow of the University of Cambridge. Since being appointed Professor of Astrophysics at Queen’s in 2005, at age 37, he has gone on to win several major awards, including a European Young Investigator Award, European Research Council Advanced Grant, and the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Astronomy.
On accepting his appointment as a patron, Professor Smartt commented:
‘It is an honour to be asked to be a patron. Rational thinking and the scientific process are central to our society and culture. I feel it’s often under threat by groups with preconceived ideas about our world, or those who feel they can ignore inconvenient facts.
‘Science, however, is quite simple: observe the world and test ideas and theories. The theories must match what we see or they are wrong. I get things wrong all the time, but it’s the way we progress. When kids are young, they are full of enthusiasm for asking questions and expressing their wonder about the world. We all need to keep a bit of that youthful belligerence with us as adults.’