Sir Ian Axford was photographed at the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy in the late 1990s. Axford was director of the institute, at Katlenburg-Lindau in Germany, from 1974 to 2001, and during this time it achieved world renown, participating in international space missions, notably Ulysses, Giotto, SOHO/Cluster and Cassini/Huygens.
Born in Dannevirke in 1933, Ian Axford gained degrees in engineering and mathematics from the University of Canterbury before joining the New Zealand Defence Scientific Corps and going to Britain to study aerodynamics. Gaining his PhD in 1960, he developed an interest in geophysical and astrophysical applications of plasma physics, a research area of great interest in the space age, and joined a research group at the Defence Research Board of Canada in Ottawa. After a brief return to New Zealand, he moved to the United States in 1963, rising to the positions of associate professor of astrophysics and professor of astronomy at Cornell University and later professor of physics and applied physics at the University of California. While at the Max Planck Institute, he was also vice chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington, from 1982 to 1985. He received numerous international and New Zealand honours, and was named New Zealander of the year in 1995.
He returned to New Zealand and died at his Napier home in 2010, after a long illness.
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Photograph by Joy Axford
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