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Secondary school and the lecture that changed my life


Early life in Oldland Common
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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I was born in Gloucestershire on the 31st August 1913 so I'm now talking to you in the year 2007, at the age of over 93. I was born in a very small village, which was remote, about midway between the cities of Bath and Bristol. In fact, about less than a mile from where I was born and brought up, there was an old milestone which says 7 miles Bath, 7 miles Bristol.

The village was isolated. There was no public transport. In order to get anywhere, one always... one had to use a horse and trap, a bicycle, or walk two miles to the nearest trams into Bristol or station midway, railway station midway between Bristol and Bath. So I was the only child of Gilbert Lovell, who married Emily Laura Adams. My childhood was a very peaceful one. I lived alone in this village with few friends. I remember walking to school bowling a hoop. I might say that if one tried to do that nowadays... well, I think one would be mowed down by very fast cars, because the village is now almost entangled within the outskirts of Bristol.

My father was a local businessman. I don't think my parents were very well off, although they were comfortably well off and I was never starved of anything. I am told that during the First World War, I was still well fed. I remember little about the First World War, except at a very young age I remember recruiting marches around the village. The village had to make its own music and therefore I was brought up in a very musical family. In fact, I still have my father's score of Handel's Messiah with all the markings on it.

The point which influenced my young life very much and which has remained with me was that my father, although he was a businessman, was a lay preacher and he normally took three or four services a day, often travelling by bicycle or by horse and trap for several miles to preach in villages. Now I mention that because that has had a very fundamental influence on my life. Even now, so many years later, I remember that my father when he reprimanded me he did so by quotations from the bible. In fact, his knowledge of the bible was as great as that of any person I have ever since encountered. Of course, later on that influence was... received a great shock when I moved into the greater world.

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: Megan Argo Alastair Gunn

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.

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.

Tags: Gloucestershire, 31-08-1913, Bath, Bristol, World War I, Messiah (Handel), The Bible, Gilbert Lovell, Emily Laura Adams, George Frideric Handel

Duration: 3 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008