SKA Global Headquarters, UK, Thursday 25 May 2017 – It is with great sadness that the SKA Organisation acknowledges the passing of Prof. Giovanni Fabrizio Bignami, Chairman of the SKA Board of Directors in Madrid last night, Wednesday 24 May 2017, at the age of 73.
Prof. Bignami was appointed Chairman of the SKA Board in July 2015. During his time as Chairman he was instrumental in leading the Board through several major engineering and governance milestones in development of the SKA project. He was also centrally involved in the efforts to establish the SKA as an Intergovernmental Organisation, and a strong ambassador to the project relentlessly advocating for the SKA on the global scene.
Prof. Bignami graduated in Physics in 1968 at the University of Milan. During his career, he actively participated in the design and construction of numerous scientific satellites and was appointed a Principal Investigator in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) hugely successful XMM-Newton Mission from 1988 to 1997.
From 1997 to 2002 he was the Scientific Director of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), where he started, among other things, the small missions program of the ASI. From 2003 to 2006, he was Director of the Centre d’Étude Spatiale des Rayonnements in Toulouse, one of the most important space research centres in Europe. In recognition of his work, Prof. Bignami received the Officier de l’Ordre National du Mérite distinction and the Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, the most prestigious order in France.
From January 2004 to January 2007, he was President of the Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) of ESA, responsible for the agency’s scientific programme planning document, ‘Cosmic Vision 2015-2025’. On March 16, 2007, the Italian Council of Ministers appointed him as Chairman of ASI, a post he held until August 2008. After a period as President of COSPAR (the UN’s World Space Research Committee), Prof. Bignami returned to Italy as President of the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) until his retirement from office in late 2015.
Throughout his career, in addition to his prodigious academic output, Prof. Bignami was a committed and extremely high profile ambassador for science and astronomy in particular, having written numerous popular science books and given many interviews and public talks.
The Board of Directors of the SKA and the entire staff of the SKA Organisation would like to express their deepest condolences to his family and friends. His commitment, enthusiasm and energy devoted to our project will be hugely missed.