30th Sep 2012
Badass Scientist of the Week: Sir Bernard Lovell
Sir Bernard Lovell (1913–2012) was a radio astronomer and physicist, famous for developing a 76-metre radio telescope in 1957 that is still one of the largest telescopes in the world. Lovell was born Gloucestershire, and his interest in science was sparked by a public lecture given by AM Tindall, a professor of physics. Lovell received a degree in physics from Bristol University in 1934, then completed his PhD in the conductivity of thin metallic films by just 1936. He turned to the study of cosmic rays, but his work was interrupted by WWII, when he instead led a team in the research of radar technology. After, he wanted to use this new research to study the trails left behind by cosmic rays, but his first attempts instead the detected the ‘echoes’ of meteors. These studies of cosmic noise led him to radio astronomy, and in 1952, after becoming a professor of radio astronomy at Manchester University, Lovell began to build a radio telescope out of parts of WWII battleships. Just days after the telescope’s completion, the first orbiting satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched, and tracking the satellit became the telescope’s first spectacular success. Fifty years later, the telescope is still contributing to the frontier of science—used to detect both the first Soviet and American satelllites, to search for the Beagle 2 lander on Mars, and still researches pulsating stars. Lovell was knighted in 1961 for his contributions to astronomy—as Professor Brian Cox said, Lovell “was a pioneer of radio astronomy and almost invented the subject.”

Badass Scientist of the Week: Sir Bernard Lovell

Sir Bernard Lovell (1913–2012) was a radio astronomer and physicist, famous for developing a 76-metre radio telescope in 1957 that is still one of the largest telescopes in the world. Lovell was born Gloucestershire, and his interest in science was sparked by a public lecture given by AM Tindall, a professor of physics. Lovell received a degree in physics from Bristol University in 1934, then completed his PhD in the conductivity of thin metallic films by just 1936. He turned to the study of cosmic rays, but his work was interrupted by WWII, when he instead led a team in the research of radar technology. After, he wanted to use this new research to study the trails left behind by cosmic rays, but his first attempts instead the detected the ‘echoes’ of meteors. These studies of cosmic noise led him to radio astronomy, and in 1952, after becoming a professor of radio astronomy at Manchester University, Lovell began to build a radio telescope out of parts of WWII battleships. Just days after the telescope’s completion, the first orbiting satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched, and tracking the satellit became the telescope’s first spectacular success. Fifty years later, the telescope is still contributing to the frontier of science—used to detect both the first Soviet and American satelllites, to search for the Beagle 2 lander on Mars, and still researches pulsating stars. Lovell was knighted in 1961 for his contributions to astronomy—as Professor Brian Cox said, Lovell “was a pioneer of radio astronomy and almost invented the subject.”

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