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One of the great men of radio astronomy

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Lovell Telescope, Jodell Bank Observatory,
Image: Mike Peel / Wikimedia Commons

Sir Bernard Lovell is. . .the man who, 60 years ago, began the construction of the great telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire. This is now one of the planet's premier scientific installations: in March, it was shortlisted as a World Heritage Site, and this month, it was announced that it will run the most powerful radio telescope on the planet, the Square Kilometre Array. This is an international network linking 3,000 stations, which will be 50 times more sensitive and operate 10,000 times faster than any of its rivals; its findings will cast light on the greatest mysteries of the universe.

Today, aged 97, Lovell is physically frail. . .Yet his mind is as sharp as ever; his conversation is witty and charming; and his grasp of detail is nothing short of phenomenal.

Just before the outbreak of World War II, Bernard was put into a top-secret job at a radar defence station. His work gave Britain a vital edge in the Battle of Britain, led to precision bombing, and, later, established the power unit of every microwave oven in the world. His work also gave rise to radio astronomy.

It was after the war, standing in dark fields to observe meteor showers, that Lovell realized that radio equipment could pick up the signals sent by objects in the universe. The result of that insight and his incomparable determination would be Jodell Bank. . .

'What a piece of work is a man!'

Lovell is also the author of 23 books, an accomplished organist, the planter of arboretums and the president of a local cricket club. . .

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