Ivor Robinson (physicist)

Ivor Robinson (October 7, 1923 – May 27, 2016)[1][2] was a British-American mathematical physicist, born and educated in England, noted for his important contributions to the theory of relativity. He was a principal organizer of the Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics.


Born in Liverpool, October 7, 1923, "into a comfortable Jewish middle-class family",[3] Ivor Robinson studied at Cambridge University, where he was influenced by the mathematician Abram Samoilovitch Besicovitch. He took his B.A. in Mathematics in 1947. His first academic placements were at University College of Wales, King's College London, University of North Carolina, University of Hamburg, Syracuse University and Cornell University.[2]

Alfred Schild was developing a department strong in relativity at Austin, Texas, when a second Texas center for relativity research was proposed. Lloyd Berkner was directing the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies at Dallas and brought Ivor Robinson there in 1963 when it was a "windowless cube on the Southern Methodist University campus".[4] Robinson was head of the Mathematics and Mathematical Physics division.[5] This institution became the University of Texas at Dallas. "Ivor was charged with the formation of a mathematical physics group concentrating on general relativity and cosmology."[2] He brought Istvan Ozsváth and Wolfgang Rindler to Dallas.

According to Rindler, "No one who knew him will forget what a brilliant conversationalist he was, with his sonorous deep voice and ultra-English accent, with his convictions and occasional mischievousness."[2] "Ivor Robinson is a brilliant mathematician who showed us the elegant simplicity of space-time by pointing to its null structure."[4]

Robinson retired in 2000, remaining Professor Emeritus in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.


Ivor Robinson contributed extensively to modern developments in the theory of relativity. He is known for his pioneering work on null electromagnetic fields, for his collaboration with Andrzej Trautman on models for spherical gravitational waves, and for the Bel–Robinson tensor. Roger Penrose has credited him as an important influence in the development of twistor theory, through his construction of the so-called Robinson congruences.[6]

Symposium seriesEdit

Astrophysical sciences developed with attention to spectra of celestial sources to ascertain the chemical origin of these sources. The addition of radio astronomy extended the range of these spectra and revealed quasi-stellar sources with peculiar spectra. Maarten Schmidt and Jesse Greenstein found extreme red shifts in their studies, which demanded an explanation. Relativistic astrophysics offered its services as a generator of models such as black holes and their environs. Robinson, Schücking, and others organized the first Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics for December, 1963, in Dallas.[4] The Proceedings were published by University of Chicago Press as Quasi-stellar Sources and Gravitational Collapse. "It is now conventional wisdom that quasars are probably powered by rotating black holes, but it was here at Dallas that the black hole concept emerged as a serious astronomical hypothesis."[4]

The following year, a second Symposium, had Quasars and High-energy Astronomy as its published proceedings. The series continued with Symposia in alternate years. The sixth Symposium, held in New York in 1972, had its proceedings published by the New York Academy of Sciences. The following volumes of the Annals of the Academy are proceedings of the Symposium series: 224, 264, 302, 336, 375, 422, 470, 571, 647, 688, and 759. In 1974 the Symposium was back in Dallas, but then it travelled: Boston, Munich (twice), Baltimore, Austin (twice), Jerusalem, Chicago, Brighton, Berkeley, Paris, Stanford, and many subsequent venues. From the point of view of astrophysics, a rotating black hole corresponds to a Kerr metric. The astronomical picture of a quasar involves an active galactic nucleus with a supermassive black hole.



  1. ^ "Robinson, Ivor 1923-". OCLC WorldCat. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "Ivor Robinson, Founding Leader of Math, Physics Departments, Dies". UT Dallas News. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  3. ^ Wolfgang Rindler & Andrzej Trautman, Gravitation and geometry: a volume in honour of Ivor Robinson, Bibliopolis (1987), p. 9
  4. ^ a b c d Engelbert Schucking (August 1989) The First Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics Physics Today
  5. ^ "SCAS Final Annual Report 1968-1969" (PDF). University of Texas at Dallas, School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  6. ^ Penrose, Roger. "On the Origins of Twistor Theory (Gravitation and Geometry, a Volume in Honour of I. Robinson)". Retrieved 25 November 2015.

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