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A University of Buckingham professor, whose theory that comets carry the bacteria of life is now part of mainstream science, has been awarded an MBE for his services to science, astronomy and astrobiology .
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, Honorary Professor at the University of Buckingham, is a world-renowned astrophysicist and pioneer in astrobiology.
In the late 1970s, along with the late astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, Professor Wickramasinghe proposed the theory that comets carry the seeds of life – bacteria and viruses – and that life is distributed throughout the universe.
According to Professor Wickramasinghe, life on earth began with the introduction of bacteria from comets 4,200 million years ago and its further evolution was boosted by the continuous arrival of new bacteria.
This theory was considered controversial at the time, but is now in the mainstream of science.
Born in Sri Lanka, Chandra Wickramasinghe is a former fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge and a founding member of the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy.
He was a professor at Cardiff University from 1973 to 2010, before taking up his post at Buckingham in 2011 as head of the Buckingham Center for Astrobiology.
He has published over 350 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals and over 30 books.
Professor Wickramasinghe said: “I am delighted to receive this Imperial honor from Her Majesty The Queen.
“I was born in what was then Ceylon, a British colony, and I truly feel like a child of the Empire, so accepting this award is even more poignant.
“I really appreciate my relationship with Buckingham.
“I think the theory of cosmic biology that I’ve been working on for over 40 years will eventually change the way we think about ourselves and the cosmos.
“This process has only just begun.”
University of Buckingham Vice-Chancellor James Tooley said: “Professor Wickramasinghe’s work was groundbreaking and his comet research is now entering the mainstream of science.
“The university has benefited enormously from his many lectures on the subject over the years.
“It’s a well-deserved award.
“I congratulate Professor Wickramasighe on being awarded an MBE.”
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe was decorated by the President of Sri Lanka in 1992 with the titular honor of Vidya Jyothi, joining a select group that includes Geoffrey Bawa, Arthur C. Clarke and Cyril Ponnamperuma.
He continues to be one of the most active researchers, publishing a large number of scientific articles and books. He is an honorary professor at the University of Ruhuna in Sri Lanka, and also an assistant professor at the National Institute of Basic Studies, of which he was the founding director in 1981.