Ian Axford joins Pickering and Tinsley in the Kepler Mountain Range

Ian Axford joins Pickering and Tinsley in the Kepler Mountain Range

The Minister for Land Information Hon Damien O’Connor announces the official naming of Mount Axford, a peak in the Kepler Mountains in Fiordland. 

The Board supported naming it to recognise Sir Ian’s distinguished international career as a researcher and leader of science organisations. Mount Pickering and Mount Tinsley nearby were officially named in 2010 after William Hayward Pickering, a distinguished New Zealand scientist who pioneered space exploration, and Beatrice Muriel Hill Tinsley, a prominent New Zealand astronomer and cosmologist whose research made fundamental contributions to understanding the evolution of galaxies. 

New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa Chairperson Anselm Haanen says, “Themed place names that commemorate prominent New Zealand space scientists are a unique feature of the Kepler Mountains. Mr Haanen says many submissions to the Board were in favour of the new place name, which marks the highest point in the Kepler Mountains.Related links

From New Zealand Gazetteer

Mount Axford
This is an official name
Current Status: Assigned
Feature Type: Hill
Feature Description:
A 1720m peak approximately 1km northwest of Lake Victoria in the Kepler Mountains, Fiordland. NZTopo50-CD07 650563.

Named for Sir Ian Axford (1933-2010) astrophysicist and cosmologist. Naming the mountain for Sir Ian Axford continues the theme of commemorating prominent New Zealand space scientists in the Kepler Mountains.

2021-10-13: NZGB Gazettal 2021-ln4308
Reference Information:
Linzone file reference: GES-N15-07-21/156

45.411S 167.441E
Land District: Southland

Google Earth was used to capture the images attached to this article. 


Additional images

  • Ian Axford joins Pickering and Tinsley in the Kepler Mountain Range
  • Ian Axford joins Pickering and Tinsley in the Kepler Mountain Range
  • Ian Axford joins Pickering and Tinsley in the Kepler Mountain Range
  • Ian Axford joins Pickering and Tinsley in the Kepler Mountain Range


Sir William Ian Axford - Biographical Memoir by William Allen

Bill Allen wrote Ian's biographical memoir, which was published by the Royal Society in 2013. The PDF version is available for download from their Royal Society Publishing website, or you can download a local copy here.


William Ian Axford was born and educated in New Zealand, receiving his ME and MSc degrees from Canterbury College of the University of New Zealand in 1956. He completed his PhD at Manchester University in 1960 and spent the following year at Cambridge University before moving to the Defence Research Board of Canada. From 1963 to 1974 he held professorships at Cornell University and the University of California at San Diego. From 1974 to 2001 he directed the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy in Germany, with two three-year periods of leave in New Zealand in 1982–85 and 1992–95.

Ian Axford was one of the greatest plasma physicists of the space age. He made fundamental contributions to a wide range of topics in the fields of space physics and astrophysics, including the dynamics of the Earth’s magnetosphere, the magnetic field reconnection process, the Sun’s atmosphere and the formation and evolution of the solar wind, the interaction of the solar wind with the interstellar medium and with comets, cosmic ray propagation and modulation in the Solar System, the acceleration of cosmic rays in supernova shocks, and the use of robotic spacecraft in the exploration of the Solar System.

Ian was also a remarkable science administrator, completely restructuring the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy and transforming it into one of the world’s leading space and atmospheric research institutes. He was a great advocate of international collaboration in science, and reinvigorated several flagging institutions such as the European Geophysical Society and the International Council of Scientific Unions Committee on Space Research.

Dad's spot on the hill

Dad's spot on the hill



Joy turns 80

We all had fun at Joy's 80th Birthday in Napier this past month. All the kids turned up. Bernard gave a very nice talk, including about how he met mom, and the Facebook community marvelled afterwards at how young she looks!

Joy, Elizabeth and Josephine, Alexander, Bryony, and even Robyn gave us some fabulous musical performances. At this rate I think a 90th Birthday is an easy prediction!

We have some photos up in the gallery here.


From Napier to Halley's Comet and back

Back in the 70s when Linda and I were kids running around the corridors of the Max Plank Institute waiting for dad to finish work, one of the attractions we'd stop and goggle at were glass display cases containing hand made models of satellites and various space-related gadgets, relating to actual space research projects that the Institute was involved in.

Joy has now obtained one of these models, the Giotto space probe. It is to become the annual award for academic achievement in Year 13 physics at Napier Boy's High School, where dad himself went to school.

Read the full story here. Photo by Duncan Brown, Hawke's Bay Tribune.