Diary of the construction of Jodrell Bank radio telescope Spread 0

Diary of the construction of Jodrell Bank radio telescope Spread 0 cover

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Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard Lovell (1919-2012) would become the most celebrated post-War British scientist, capturing the public’s imagination through overseeing the construction and use of the steerable radio telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire. At the time of its building, this dish was the largest such instrument in the world. The Lovell Telescope (as it is now known) was not only of scientific importance in astronomy, it was an engineering icon of its time and indeed remains so. The telescope detected the carrier rockets for Sputnik 1 and 2, catapulting the facility not only into the Space Age, but into the Cold War, since Jodrell Bank had the capability of detecting ICBMs.

As the diary chronicles, these unexpected benefits came to Bernard Lovell’s salvation at a time when the telescope project was running over-budget. Instead of being arrested (as Lovell anticipated) he became a national figure. He gave his name to the Nigel Kneale’s fictional scientist Bernard Quatermass and appeared on the BBC himself, giving the 1958 Reith Lectures. Meanwhile, the Jodrell Bank facility carried on its scientific work under Lovell’s guidance: for example, making the first detections of the radio sources known as quasars in the late 1950s.

Bernard Lovell’s typed diary of these events, the administration, financing and engineering of the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, begins in 1952 and continues to July 1955 before reverting to a confidential manuscript account of the author’s tribulations. In accompanying papers, Lovell explores a range of related subjects: from extending his use of radio echoes in upper atmosphere meteor detection to missile early warning and in the use of radio waves in long-range aircraft navigation.