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"

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

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor