Dill Faulkes, a wealthy businessman and former cosmology student, is funding the Royal Observatory in Greenwich to build the world's largest educational telescope on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Faulkes hopes that the telescope will encourage UK students to study science. Schools from around the country will be able to access the telescope via the internet. The telescope is expected to receive first light in 2001.
Faulkes was educated at Hinckley Grammar School and at an early age specialised in science. He obtained a degree from Hull University and then went to London University to do a PhD in general relativity and cosmology. Afterwards he spent three years doing post-doctoral research before moving into the computer industry. He sees this latest project as a way to put something back into education. “Unlike most people I was nearly 30 when I finished my studies in mathematics and cosmology. I can thank my parents for allowing me all those years in school and university and the state system for giving me a free education, ” he says.
The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council is also getting involved. It is negotiating with the University of Hawaii to run the telescope on behalf of the Royal Observatory. School students in Hawaii would receive time on the telescope as payment to the university. Faulkes hopes that the project will enable Hawaiian and UK students to meet on the Internet to discuss the exploration of space.