About David Malin, AM

David Malin portrait, Oct 2003
David Malin has been involved in scientific imaging all his working life. He joined the Anglo-Australian Observatory (AAO, now the Australian Astronomical Observatory) as its Photographic Scientist in August 1975, shortly after scheduled observations began on the then-new, 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) in June 1975. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Scientific Photography at RMIT University in Melbourne. He was born in England and trained as a chemist, working for many years with a large international chemical company in the north of England. There he used optical and electron microscope and X-ray diffraction techniques to explore the very small before turning his attention to much larger and more distant things in Australia
Photo by Andrew T. Warman, RIT     Bigger image     Different image (the centre of the (French) Universe. Photo: Bob Bee)

David Malin worked for 26 years at the Anglo-Australian Observatory (now the Australian Astronomical Observatory) as photographic scientist and astronomer. There he developed hypersensitising processes which can give enormous gains in speed to the photographic materials that were used in astronomy. He also invented new ways of revealing information on astronomical plates, a speciality which gave him an international reputation.

These novel image-enhancement techniques quickly led to the discovery of two new types of galaxy. Malin-Carter 'shell' galaxies are now know to be common, and have low contrast but large-scale, shell-like features or ripples associated with otherwise normal galaxies. In 1987 he discovered an extremely faint, uniquely massive 'proto-galaxy' which has since been named Malin-1. This is still the largest known spiral galaxy and despite its size remains a challenging object to study. At the time, these discoveries were some of the faintest objects ever detected by an ground-based telescope and were the result of a photographic process that has been dubbed 'Malinisation'. Their discovery represented a significant advance in photographic astronomy, as well as being a significant contribution to research on galaxies.

The several photographic techniques developed for research work come together in a method for making true-colour astronomical photographs from black and white plates taken in three separate colours. They have been widely published on the covers of hundreds books and magazines, including LIFE and National Geographic and as a series of Australian postage stamps. They have also been appeared in international solo art exhibitions in Australia, Britain, China, France, Italy, India and the USA. He has also used CCDs for colour imagery on the AAT, but so far none of these images has made it into an art gallery.

David Malin has published over 140 scientific papers and a similar number of popular articles on astronomy and photography, and is author or co-author of 12 books, as well as contributing to many others. He is also a well-known and entertaining lecturer on these and related topics. The Invisible Universe (Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown and Company, 1999). is a large format celebration of the beauty of the night sky, a subject increasing explored in his gallery exhibitions. He was also scientific advisor for Heaven and Earth (Phaidon, 2002) a profusely illustrated work that uses scientific pictures to explore all scales from the atomic to the cosmic. In 2007 he was commisioning editor for the Scientific Imaging section of Elsevier's well respected Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. More recently (2011) he was a co-author of Treasures of the Southern Sky: A Photographic Anthology with Robert Gendler and Hans Christensen, which is a celebration of the beautiful southern sky. More recently (2017) he was a major contributor to Phaidon's Universe, a richly illustrated feast of art, history and astronomy.

David Malin's contributions to photographic science and astronomy have received international recognition, including honorary degrees from two Australian universities:

Scientific publications
General publications
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Updated by David Malin, 2021 January 9