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William Ashley BradfieldPrint Page Print this page

27-February-2018
27-February-2018

Photographs supplied by Bryan Cole
The seat commemorates William Ashley Bradfield (1927-2014) for his contribution to the community.  He was a rocket scientist, astronomer and comet hunter.

William Ashley Bradfield AM (1927 – 2014) was a New Zealand-born Australian amateur astronomer, notable as a prolific amateur discoverer of comets. He gained a world record by discovering 18 comets, all of which bear his name as the sole discoverer.

Bradfield was born in Levin, New Zealand on 20 June 1927. He grew up on a dairy farm, where his interests in rocketry and astronomy first developed, and when he was 15 he got his first small telescope. He attended the University of New Zealand, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. He spent 2 years in England doing a rocket propulsion residency and then in 1953 he moved to Australia, taking up residence in Adelaide, where he worked for the Australian Department of Defence as a rocket propulsion engineer and research scientist until he retired in 1986.

Bradfield joined the Astronomical Society of South Australia (ASSA) in 1970 which fueled his interest, and he started hunting for comets in 1971, using a second-hand telescope which he bought from another ASSA member.

Just over a year and 260 hours of searching later, he was rewarded with finding Comet Bradfield (C/1972 E1). Six comets followed in his first six years, and in 1987 the discovery of his 13th comet made him the most prolific comet-hunter of the 20th century. Eventually his count built to 18 comets after 3500 hours of searching, with the 18th and final comet discovery coming on 23 March 2004 when he was 76 years old.

His discoveries were particularly notable because he worked alone to discover them, using old and home-made telescopic equipment. Apart from the 100-year-old lens and modern eyepieces, the remainder of his telescope was homemade, but perfectly suited for hunting comets. He did not use photographic or computerized detection equipment, relying instead on purely visual sweeping across the skies. 

Having joined the Astronomical Society of South Australia (ASSA) in 1970, Bradfield served as its President from 1977 to 1979. In 1989 he was appointed an honorary Life Member, and he was inducted into the ASSA Hall of Fame in 2013.

He died on 9 June 2014 after a long illness, at age 86.

Location

Address:Torrens Vale Road, Torrens Vale Lookout, Torrens Vale, 5203
State:SA
Area:AUS
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -35.505315
Long: 138.380024
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Details

Monument Type:Seat
Monument Theme:People
Sub-Theme:Science

Dedication

Front Inscription

                 In memory of 
William Ashley (Bill) Bradfield AM BE (Hons)
          June 1927 - June 2014
     Rocket Scientist and Astronomer
     Comet Hunter Extraordinaire
In recognition of his contribution to the community

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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