Glasgow University bequeathed £500,000 in late scientist’s will


Tomas Dvorak

Bequest from professor Ronald Drever’s estate will help to establish a new postgraduate scholarship in his name at Institute for Gravitational Research

The University of Glasgow has received a bequest of £500,000 from the estate of Professor Ronald Drever, which will be used to establish and fund a scholarship in his name.

The new Professor Ronald Drever Scholarship in Physics and Astronomy will serve to fund one annual postgraduate place at the Institute for Gravitational Research. The first scholarship is expected to be awarded to a postgraduate student next academic year.

Professor Drever, who passed away in March last year at the age of 85, was one of the world’s leading physicists in the field of gravitational wave research. Born in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, he obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Glasgow in 1953 followed by a PhD in 1959. In the next 25 years, he was instrumental in initiating and establishing the project to detect gravitational waves at the University before leaving to work full time at California Institute of Technology.

While at Caltech, Professor Drever played key roles in co-founding the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which led to the discovery of gravitational waves in September 2015, 100 years after Albert Einstein formulated the proposal of their existence. This detection was also the first direct evidence of the existence of black holes. Their research was in part built on Professor Drever’s seminal work on the design and implementation of the LIGO interferometers with extreme sensitivity, the so-called Pound-Drever-Hall technique.

His colleagues from his early days at LIGO, Professors Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss, received the Nobel Prize in Physics last year for their work on gravitational waves and the LIGO/VIRGO collaboration, along with professor Barry Barish.

Professor Drever himself received many prestigious awards himself during his life, including Yuri Milner Foundation’s Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2016) and the Gruber Prize in Cosmology (2016), together with the Shaw Prize in Astronomy (2016) and the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics (2016), along with his colleagues from the LIGO research

Professor Martin Hendry, head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “We’re honoured and grateful that Professor Drever chose to donate such a substantial sum to the University of Glasgow, where he began his career and made his initial contributions to the field of gravitational wave research.”

The Drever family said: “We are delighted that Ronald’s life work was demonstrated during his lifetime, and his legacy will provide the opportunity to further this ground-breaking research over the years to come. Ronald received bursaries at crucial points in his early studies, and it is brilliant that the historical investment in Ronald can be perpetuated, supporting future physicists in this field.”

Aside from the monetary bequest to create the scholarship, the Drever family has also donated his impressive array of international award trophies and medals to the University trust for future display as part of the Hunterian collection.