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Professor Richard Bower

It is with great sadness that Professor Richard Bower passed away on January 6th 2023.

Richard Gwyn Bower graduated with a first class degree in Physics from Oxford University in 1986 and obtained a PhD from Durham in 1989 under the joint supervision of Professors Richard Ellis and Carlos Frenk. After postdoctoral positions at Durham, Edinburgh and Munich, he returned to Durham in 1995 as a Lecturer and was promoted to a Chair in 2002.

Richard's contributions to astrophysics and cosmology ranged widely. As a PhD student, he formulated a theory for the evolution of dark matter clumps which still underpins modern galaxy formation theory. He was particularly interested in the processes that determine the abundance and properties of galaxies and wrote influential papers on this topic, including a famous one on how the supermassive black holes found at the centre of bright galaxies regulate the properties of the galaxy itself.

Always seeking to innovate, Richard played a major role in the team that developed a new-generation, massively parallel supercomputer simulation code, SWIFT, which is now widely used in the subject. This code was used in the landmark  ‘Eagle’ simulation of the formation of galaxies, in which Richard played a leading role, and which resulted in the most cited paper in astronomy published in 2015. He was an enthusiast for transferring techniques and codes from cosmology to industry; an initiative he masterminded led to Durham becoming an Intel Parallel Computing Centre.

A high point of his career was the projection onto the facade of Durham cathedral during Lumiere 2015 of World Machine, scenes taken from supercomputer simulations of galaxies, a collaboration with his close colleague Carlos Frenk and artists Ross Ashton, John del'Nero and Isobel Waller-Bridge. Richard was also part of the multidisciplinary ``Ordered Universe'' project with Giles Gasper (History), Tom McLeish and Brian Tanner (Physics) and colleagues in other disciplines elsewhere. He translated the cosmogenic ideas of the medieval thinker Robert Grosseteste (c.1170-1253) into the modern mathematical language of cosmology.

Richard was a charismatic leader who attracted colleagues of all ages to work with him on projects at the cutting edge of science. He will be much missed both here and globally.

Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Richard’s family and friends.