Sir Bernard Lovell, pioneer of Jodrell Bank, dies at 98

Tributes to designer of legendary British telescope and 'inventor' of modern astronomy

Sir Bernard Lovell, the father of British radio-astronomy whose name will forever be associated with the famous Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, died on Monday at the age of 98.

Sir Bernard was the first director of Jodrell Bank, where he designed and built what was then the world's largest steerable radio-telescope, a 76m-wide device now known as the Lovell Telescope. It was completed in 1957 for what at the time was considered a controversial cost of £700,000. His critics were assuaged, however, when within days of its opening the telescope tracked the Soviet rocket launching Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.

During the Second World War, Sir Bernard led the team that developed the first ground-scanning radar used on RAF aircraft and later, on return to the University of Manchester, deployed some of the same equipment to build his first radio-telescope for detecting cosmic rays from deep space.

In late 1945 he brought his equipment out to the university's botany field site at Jodrell Bank, where he eventually founded the world famous observatory for radio-astronomy, a field he popularised for the public.

"He was a pioneer of radio-astronomy and almost invented the subject. He built the leading telescope and that radio study of the sky has contributed a vast amount to our understanding of the Universe," said Professor Brian Cox, the TV physicist.

One of the most intriguing episodes in Sir Bernard's life could now emerge following his death. In 2009, he claimed to have survived an assassination attempt during a visit to the Soviet Union in 1963 but insisted his account of the affair should only be published after his death.

Sir Bernard claimed that he had suffered radiation sickness as a result of being bombarded by a Russian radio-telescope during an official visit to a military facility on the Black Sea.

"They tried to remove from my memory the fact that they had taken me to their own defence nucleus on the Black Sea coast, because they did now want news of what they had brought back to this country," he said in a 2009 TV interview.

Lord Rees, the Astronomer Royal, said Sir Bernard was a great visionary leader in science whose experience in the war gave him the confidence to "think big": "He had the boldness and self-confidence to conceive a giant radio telescope, and the persistence to see it through to completion"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot