Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Vale Dr Ragbir Bhathal FRSN

Dr Ragbir BhathalThe Society is saddened by the unexpected death of Past President Dr Ragbir Bhathal, a long-serving member and Councilor of the Society.

A member since 1982, Dr Bhathal passed away suddenly on 30 November 2022, aged 86. He was President in 1984 and Honorary Secretary from 1989 to 1991. He was elected a Fellow in 2015 and recently served as Honorary Librarian in which role he was responsible for the first modern valuation of the Society’s library since 1936.

A well-known Australian astronomer, Dr Bhathal did his Ph.D. in magnetism at the University of Queensland. 

Prior to his arrival in Australia, Bhathal was a member of the academic staff of the University of Singapore. He was subsequently offered the role of Foundation Director of the Singapore Science Centre, one of the largest science centres in East Asia, and served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Science and Technology Centres, Washington. He was a UNESCO consultant on science policy for the ASEAN group of nations.

As an adviser to the Federal Minister for Science in Australia, Dr Barry Jones, Dr Bhathal was a member of the committee set up to establish the National Science & Technology Centre (Questacon) in Canberra. He was also the Project Director for the million-dollar Sydney Observatory restoration building program and he became the Deputy Director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney.

Dr Bhathal subsequently spent 30 years on the staff of Western Sydney University teaching and researching. There he became a Distinguished Teaching Fellow in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics. He published fifteen books, six on astronomy and two on Aboriginal astronomy. He researched and published a definitive oral history of 100 eminent Australian women scientists for the National Library of Australia. He is well known for his work on Optical Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (OSETI).

Dr Bhathal was awarded the Royal Society of NSW Medal in 1988 for services to science and research, as well as the CJ Dennis Award for excellence in natural history writing and the prestigious Nancy Keesing Fellowship by the State Library of NSW.

The Society extends its sincere condolences to his family. 

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