Adrian Tiplady

Physicist

Adrian Tiplady is the self-professed black sheep of his
family. "No one in my family plays any instruments or
has anything to do with science,� he says. So where Tiplady
got his talent for jazz and physics is anyone's guess.
An avid saxophonist, he's played jazz and classical music
at international festivals and is one of the project leaders
in South Africa's bid to host the largest radio telescope in
the world, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). He advises the
science minister and represents the country on international
astronomy and telecoms boards.
When Tiplady was at university he aspired to become a
conductor. "It was never my plan to be a practising scientist,�
he says. But fate had other plans. Having selected music
and computer studies and looking for a third major subject,
Tiplady closed his eyes, fl ipped through the student manual
and landed on philosophy. " But it clashed with one of my
other subjects. So I did it again and landed on physics,�
he says. Seven years later, he completed a PhD in his
accidental subject, specialising in radio astronomy and
digital instrumentation.
Once he had his PhD he had his heart set on going to
Paris to be a jazz musician. But an invitation to become
involved in the SKA changed that, fulfi lling his ambition to
become involved in high-impact events. Five years later, he's
one of the point men in South Africa's SKA bid.
Tiplady believes the SKA provides the perfect opportunity
for African scientists to invest in the knowledge economy,
build technical expertise and collaborate with the world's
leading science institutions. "We've already [become] a
leading light in the astronomical community in terms of
design and engineering,� he says.
The accidental scientist still holds on to the dream that
maybe in fi ve years he'll be playing jazz in a Paris cafe. Then
again, he admits, "maybe I'll be involved in a scientific
project�. � Faranaaz Parker

Lunch spot: Cranks, Rosebank, Johannesburg