Professor John Hearnshaw

John was born in Wellington but grew up in England graduating from Cambridge with a science degree. John followed this doing a PhD in astronomy at the Australian National University in Canberra. After finishing a doctoral thesis, John had research fellowships at the Paris Observatory and Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution in Cambridge, Mass. He returned to New Zealand to a lecturing position at the University of Canterbury and was promoted to a professorship at Canterbury in 1995 and eventually retired in 2014. For 25 of those years John served as director of Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo, in three different periods during which time he developed new instruments to use at Mt John and training graduate students in astronomy.

During his time at Canterbury John was the author of six books on astronomy. He has been active working for the International Astronomical Union and continues to do so.  From 2003 to 2012 he chaired the IAU Program Group for the World-wide Development of Astronomy, a job that entailed travelling to developing countries to give lectures, to advise on teaching astronomy and to promote research collaborations. John’s travels have taken him to Mongolia, Cuba (twice), Venezuela (twice), Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Mauritius, Fiji, North Korea, Uruguay, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago and Thailand (many times).

John is currently IAU Vice-President on the Executive Committee and until recently chair of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve board, a charity that helps maintain dark skies in the Mackenzie District in the central South Island of New Zealand. During this time John organised Starlight Festivals in 2013, 2015, and 2017 and an International Starlight Conference in 2019. Under John’s leadership, the AMIDSR was awarded the International Dark-Sky Association Dark Sky Place of the Year 2018.

John is the National Focal Point for New Zealand in the UNESCO Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative. In 2020, John was the recipient of the International Dark-Sky Association’s  Crawford-Hunter Lifetime Achievement Award.