Dr Hugh Mortimer
Dr Hugh Mortimer is a senior research scientist at the Science and Technologies Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. He leads a group in the development of space based remote sensing instrumentation, specifically in the area of hyperspectral imaging. Prior to this Hugh worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he started his research career in Optical and Environmental Metrology, working on a variety of different and exciting projects including developing the world’s first infrared spectroscopy calibration facility based on Fourier Transform Spectroscopy. It was this that started his passion for very precise measurements and developing techniques to manipulate light. Dr Mortimer completed his DPhil at Oxford University in 2008 where he developed a Static imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer (SHIFTS), which has led to the development of the microFTS, an instrument that was funded under a technology award that Hugh won in 2009. This research is motivated by the need to provide high accuracy spectroscopic instrumentation that are highly miniaturised and stable in hostile environments. As a consequence of his work the microFTS was patented in 2010 and was spun out into an private company in 2012. Dr Mortimer has also worked on numerous space based Earth Observation missions including the ESA’s Sentinel 3 satellite –the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) and also novel instrument for Mapping Earth Surface – CMS on the Techdemosat
Hugh is also passionate about the communication of science, its importance, its impact and its value in society. He is involved with several outreach projects which include speaking about space science, planetary atmospheres and our climate, at schools and science festivals and believes that one of the main responsibilities of the scientist is to communicate the results of their research not just to their peers, but to communicate the impact of their work to the wider audience of the general public. One of the areas that he has focused is the use of art to communicate the impact and importance of science. After Dr Mortimer worked with the Invisible Dust art programme, he has been inspired by how the arts can work with the sciences to reach audiences that traditionally are not targeted by typical outreach activities. He has since been science adviser on a variety of art-science collaborations, and has set up the Artist in Residency programme at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. This has given him the opportunity to work with the Turner prize winning artist Elizabeth Price on the piece Sunlight through to internationally acclaimed choreographer, Alex Whitley on the piece “8 Minutes”. Dr Mortimer has also worked providing scientific advice for film and television, working on films such as the Ridley Scott film “Prometheus”, and the National Geographic series “Year Million”.
Art and Science
Science is a based on substantiated facts, with no latitude for the scientist to add their subjective opinion, leaving them to find the raw patterns within life, the stars and the cosmos. Art can provide the interpretation that can bring that science to life, show meaning to those that are untrained and provide insight to the way that humanity understands and interacts with their surroundings. The “Invisible Dust” projects gives perspective to climate science so that it can be understood by the general public and with the aim of engaging them to impact of our influence on the planet. It is through the artist’s unique perspective on the scientist’s objective analysis of real world data that Dr Mortimer feels is the most powerful aspect of this project, and why he is taking part.