Professor Michael J Barnsley
Born in 1960, Mike grew up and was educated in North London and went on to gain a first-class honours degree, and a PhD in 1986, from the University of Reading. Following a lectureship at Birkbeck and University College London, in 1995 he became Research Professor of Remote Sensing and GIS in the Department of Geography at Swansea University. By March 2007 he was founding Director of the School of the Environment and Society and a Pro Vice Chancellor of the University.
The last thirty years have seen a revolution in understanding our planet as a system, using satellites to provide a global view of the Earth's surface. Mike contributed greatly to this field, both in his own research and in stimulating collaboration between satellite developers and the climate modelling community. In recognition, he received an award at Buckingham Palace as a 'pioneer in the life of the nation'.
In his research he was one of the first to note that direct comparisons between satellite observations could not be made unless viewing and illumination conditions were the same, and further that viewing the Earth's surface from multiple angles offers new ways of deriving information. In collaboration with NASA he helped develop one of the most widely used products, the MODIS BRDF/albedo product, used in many of today's climate and weather forecasting models. He realised the fruition of many of his ideas in his role as the Land Science Leader for the European Space Agency PROBA/ CHRIS mission for hyperspectral multiangle observations of the Earth.
Mike was both immensely likeable and able to inspire confidence in those around him. This exceptional combination of attributes could be seen in all of his dealings with people. University support staff remember him as kind, considerate and warm; students invariably found him to be a highly approachable and inspirational teacher; colleagues universally recall him as charming, generous and fair.
Mike's abilities as an exceptional scientist and inspirational leader took him inevitably towards greater and greater responsibilities. It seemed only natural that he would lead one of only six NERC Centres of Excellence in Earth Observation, the Climate and Land Surface Systems Interaction centre (CLASSIC) in 2002. This linked University research in satellite observation with the climate modelling community, and continues today through the National Centre for Earth observation, of which Swansea forms a part.