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Early life in Oldland Common

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A visit to Fylingdales and my retirement
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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Now, things then calmed down and I think it was in 1963, I had a kind letter from the Secretary of State, thanking me for, or thanking me for helping and that was that. Then I had another message from Sir Morris Dean, saying look here, Lovell, if you’d like to be at Manchester Airport tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock, I’ll meet you there with a small aircraft and I’ll take you to Fylingdales, so I met Morris Dean. We flew to an RAF station on the east coast where a commander in chief of fighter command was waiting. He put us in a helicopter which was jet controlled and he gave me some earphones and said- look here, as long as you’re absolutely deafened by this noise, it’s all right. If it stops, the helicopter will turn over and you're to fall out. Well, fortunately the noise did not stop. We landed at Fylingdales. I was shown all the equipment, which was then working. It was on, working on about 408 or 410 megahertz and had a, a scanner in the great hangar which was then one of the ballistic missile defence establishments for then around the world. The C in C was extremely nice, showed me everything, gave us lunch and I said- now look here, it would be very nice if you’d bring some of your staff back to see Jodrell and a few weeks later the return visit took place. And with that amicable, amicable exchange, my arrangements or my collaboration with anything to do with military matters ceased, although we still had contact with Cheltenham for other reasons, which enabled us to earn some money from the Americans, and that was that, and a typically English ending I thought to what could have been a quite horrific story. I then lived in relative peace and still do so, and retired from Jodrell in 1981, but I am privileged still to use an office there and I’m delighted still to be able to go there whenever I want to and try to understand what the young people are now doing. I think I perhaps ought to end my story there and so thank you for recording and for anybody who listens to this in the future.

Bernard Lovell (1913-2012), British radio astronomer and founder of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, received an OBE in 1946 for his work on radar, and was knighted in 1961 for his contribution to the development of radio astronomy. He obtained a PhD in 1936 at the University of Bristol. His steerable radio telescope, which tracked Sputnik across the sky, is now named the Lovell telescope.

Listeners: Alastair Gunn Megan Argo

Alastair Gunn is an astrophysicist at Jodrell Bank Observatory, University of Manchester. He is responsible for the coordination and execution of international radio astronomical observations at the institute and his professional research concerns the extended atmospheres of highly active binary stars. Alastair has a deep interest and knowledge of the history of radio astronomy in general and of Jodrell Bank in particular. He has written extensively about Jodrell Bank's history.

Megan Argo is an astronomer at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory researching supernovae and star formation in nearby starburst galaxies. As well as research, she is involved with events in the Observatory's Visitor Centre explaining both astronomy and the history of the Observatory to the public.

Tags: Manchester Airport, Fylingdales, Royal Air Force, Jodrell Bank, Cheltenham, Morris Dean

Duration: 3 minutes, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008