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Tom Marsh update

The body found by search teams in Chile last week has been confirmed to be that of our missing friend and colleague Professor Tom Marsh.

Tom was working as a visiting astronomer at the European Southern Observatory at La Silla, in the Atacama Desert. He was reported missing on September 16 and had not been seen since.

An extensive search of the remote mountainous region around the observatory had been underway for over 8 weeks, led by a number of highly trained specialist search teams.

Last Thursday, they found a body around two miles from the Observatory.

Responding to the news, Chris Ennew, Provost at the University of Warwick, said:

“It’s the news we had all been dreading over the last two agonising months. It’s heart-breaking and painful to know we have lost Tom.

“During the long search operation in the desert area around the European Southern Observatory where Tom had been working, we never lost hope that he could be found alive and reunited with his family.

“Our hearts go out to his wife Felicity, son Henry and daughter Tabitha, who were in Chile when they heard the news that a body had been found.

“We have been in regular contact with them throughout this ordeal and will continue to offer them our full support.

“Tom was an outstanding academic and researcher, although in his typically modest way he rarely mentioned his significant achievements.

“He was motivated not by awards but by a deep love and passion for science.

“Tom was the founding professor of the Astronomy and Astrophysics group here at Warwick and was widely regarded as a world-leading expert.

“During his 40-year career Tom authored some 800 notes and papers, on all manner of astronomical objects: binary systems, white dwarfs, variable stars, supernovae, and applying his techniques to find extra-solar planets or explore the Kuiper Belt.

“In 2018, Tom won the Royal Astronomical Society’s Herschel Medal, which is awarded for investigations of outstanding merit in observational astrophysics. The Herschel Medal recognised Tom’s pioneering research on binary star systems.

“He kept this hugely prestigious prize largely quiet from even those closest to him.

“But he wasn’t just a brilliant academic. Just as importantly he was kind, considerate and a much-loved member of our community, acting as a mentor and inspiration to generations of students and colleagues.

“He will be sorely missed. We will consider over the coming weeks how to remember him at the University.

“I would like to thank the Chilean authorities for their dedication, expertise, and professionalism in their search for Tom. They worked tirelessly searching a vast area around the observatory, which is located in arid, mountainous terrain.

“I’d also like to thank our colleagues at ESO who have been supportive and kind throughout, along with Warwickshire Police for their help and guidance during this difficult period.

“And finally, I would also like to mention my wonderful colleagues at Warwick who have been doing so much behind the scenes to help with the search for Tom, providing so much logistical, practical as well as emotional support.

“I know what a terrible time this has been for the colleagues who knew Tom and counted him as a close friend.”

Staff and students are being offered well-being support by the University to help those impacted by the news.

You can read more about Tom’s extensive academic achievements here.

Professor Tom Marsh