Jordi Torra

Jordi Torra, rest in peace

Published on 27.02.2019



Barcelona, February 26th, 2019

A doctor in physics from the University of Barcelona (1984) and a professor of the Department of Quantum Physics and Astrophysics of our university, Jordi Torra Roca has focused his research career on the study of the structure, formation and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way. He was one of the European leaders in the development of astrometry from space. He headed Spanish participation in the Hipparcos astrometric mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) in the 1980s, and in the Gaia mission since 1997, through a satellite launched in 2013 which is still in operation. Without a doubt, Jordi had a more prominent role in the Gaia mission. Gaia is one of the great missions of ESA that maintains world leadership in the field of astrometry from space and which, due to its already demonstrated capabilities, is revolutionary in all areas of astrophysics now and will continue to be so in the next decades. Jordi Torra led with excellence the Spanish group involved in the mission. More than fifty professionals have been trained in the last 20 years in the Gaia team of the UB. This team is currently formed by about 30 astrophysicists and engineers working side by side, as he argued, to address the scientific and technological challenges posed by these major international projects at the forefront of research and technology. Jordi Torra also participated in other space missions such as the optical camera of the OMC @ INTEGRAL satellite, the SMART-2 mission and, more recently, the definition of new ESA astrometric missions such as NEAT, THEIA and GaiaNIR.

Passionate about astronomical observation and with extensive experience in the use of telescopes on the ground, he participated in the development of new instrumentation for the Gran Telescopio de Canarias and was one of the promoters for the creation of the Montsec Astronomical Observatory and the Centre for Observing the Universe (Àger), the two largest infrastructures in Catalonia for astronomical observation and dissemination, respectively.

His excellent and dedicated teaching abilities in astrophysics and mathematics is exemplified by the many generations of physics students he brought up. He has trained many young researchers in the field and has directed nine doctoral theses, practically all of them in the field of research. In the transfer of technology, he was the founder of the first joint spin-off company between the University of Barcelona and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.

His high capacity for work and the high degree of responsibility he never forsook led him to carry out various tasks of scientific management: Manager of the National Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics (2007-2011), Member of the commission that brought Spain into to the European Sourthern Observartory (2006), Coordinator of the Spanish Network of Infrastructures in Astronomy (2012-2017), and Director of the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (2015-2017). Also, he was the driving force behind the first Light pollution Law of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

He worked with passion in all fields: teaching, research, management and scientific dissemination. His work has been recognized with the City of Barcelona’s Prize in the field of Science and Technology (2013) and, recently, with the Narcís Monturiol Medal (2018).