Born on 30 September 1945 and educated at Bedford School, Hill studied the Natural Science Tripos at Queens’ College, Cambridge and then went to the University of California, Berkeley to complete his Doctor of Philosophy degree.
Hills was a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Bonn between 1972 and 1974, before he returned to the University of Cambridge and became involved in the development of telescopes and instrumentation for astronomy at wavelengths of around one millimetre—the spectral region that lies between radio waves and infrared—which is relatively unexplored.
Hills worked as a scientist at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, where he observed distant, redshifted quasars and studied processes associated with star formation. In December 2007 he was appointed as project scientist for the ALMA telescope, a sub-millimeter interferometer in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile.
Hills is a Fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge and was Director of Studies for Natural Sciences at St Edmund’s between 1990 and 2007. He was Professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Cambridge between 1990 and 2007, Deputy Head of the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge between 1999 and 2003, and has been emeritus professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Cambridge since 2012.