Groundbreaking British astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell OBE FRS, who was responsible for the inception of the infamous Lovell Telescope, passed away yesterday at the age of 98.
Tributes have poured in for the man who was an Emeritus Professor of Radioastronomy and founded the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire.
Born in 1913, in Gloucestershire, Sir Bernard studied at the University of Bristol prior to going to work at the University of Manchester’s physics department in 1936. During World War II he headed the team that worked on the development of the H2S radar. The importance of this work was primarily the reason he was awarded an OBE.
After the war, Sir Bernard went back to work at the Manchester Physics Department where he worked on cosmic rays using ex-military radar equipment which he would eventually take to the University botany site at Jodrell Bank, founding the renowned Observatory that still exists there.
The world-famous Lovell Telescope that was created by Sir Bernard at Jordell Bank is probably his most iconic achievement. The 76-meter telescope is emblematic of the achievements of British scientists and engineers. Upon its completion in 1957, it was by far the largest and most powerful telescope in the world. It traced the rocket that carried Sputnik 1 into orbit through the skies, symbolizing the beginning of the space age.
Even now, nearly 60 years after it was constructed, it is still the world’s third largest steerable telescope. It has been upgraded several times over the years, meaning that it is still an important tool in research on pulsars and explorations into extreme physics.
In 2011 Jodrell Bank Observatory was placed on the British Government’s shortlist for World Heritage Site status, paying homage to the significant role it has played in scientific research and analysis.
Sir Bernard continued to work at the Observatory and retained an active interest in scientific developments at Jodrell Bank, until very recently, when his health began to deteriorate.
Sir Bernard was known to be a warm and generous man who was loved and respected by all who knew and worked with him; he is survived by 4 of his 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. He was an accomplished musician, playing the organ at Swettenham Church for several years. He also enjoyed playing cricket and was well-known for interest in arboriculture.
The University of Manchester’s Obituary said: “Sir Bernard’s legacy is immense, extending from his wartime work to his pioneering contributions to radio astronomy and including his dedication to education and public engagement with scientific research. A great man, he will be sorely missed.”
Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced, but a book of Condolence was opened at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre today, with an online version soon to become available.