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My passion for music and especially the organ

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My wife Joyce
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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Well, before we start on the long story of Jodrell Bank, I want to say a bit about myself, because so far I’ve really talked about the work and my occupation I was engaged in. I did begin by talking a bit about my upbringing in the rather remote place between Bristol and Bath, and when I was sent to the university in 1931, the only thing I was really interested in was sport, particularly cricket and I had a- I was fascinated by the new wireless, and I’d built for myself a lot of wireless sets and all that sort of thing and became quite knowledgeable from the point of view of electronics. My father was- also his business was related to that, and I often think that if I’d had joined his business and developed that I would become a different sort of man. I’m glad I didn’t but no doubt I could have done well, because I would have been right on top of all the radio developments. Anyhow, when I was a student, I used to in the HH Wells Physics Laboratory, this lovely place in Bristol. I used to take some luncheon with me, a few sandwiches and a few apples, which I picked from the garden at home, because I was still living in my home and travelling every day into Bristol. One day I was sitting on the grounds of the Royal Fort. It was lunchtime, eating an apple and a young man came and passed by, and we said- he turned out to be a boy in the same class as I was, a class of only six in the honours school of physics and I offered him an apple, which he accepted, and that extraordinary event led to a very deep friendship with this boy, Derek Chesterman, and we discovered that we were both interested in music and he- after a short time he invited me to a concert in Bath, because in those days all the great pianists of the age used to play in weekdays in Bath, and he was typical in that he invited me to have lunch with him and his family beforehand. It turned out that he had wanted to go to Cambridge and rather despised being in Bristol. The contrary was my case. I was only too thankful to be in Bristol but anyhow I joined his family, they lived in Bath. It turned out that their name was Chesterman. Mrs. Chesterman was the daughter of a former mayor of Bath and they were of the Spear, Brothers and Clark family, very well known Bath citizens. At this lunch table, there was a 15- year- old covered in- wearing a girl guide uniform, covered in every conceivable badge, and I didn’t take much notice of her except that she had to leave the table very quickly- I don’t think that I was suspecting that she was ordered to get up and get another glass, and then she left abruptly because she had to return to school. Well, as the years developed, she went to the Froebel Training College in Bedford and she was eventually the girl I married, Joyce Chesterman and I don’t think that the young people today would believe it, but her parents I don’t think were too keen on me. They thought that I would not be the sort of boy they would like their daughter to marry. Anyhow it didn’t happen that way and we were married, just after she was 21, and really that, that’s provided a background to all that I’ve been talking about and all that I’m going to talk about, because we lived for 57 years, through war and peace, and we had one child before the war, and one child during the war, and we had five children altogether and where I’m speaking from now, we bought this house, the Quinta, Swettenham, a village in Cheshire, only a few miles from Jodrell Bank, we bought this shortly after the war was over, and so we’ve been here from 1948 and we’ve brought up our family, five children in this house. They are all married and remarkably everyone continued to live with the person they married and brought up their own children, so I’m now the possessor of 14 grandchildren and an increasing number of great grandchildren, but I ought to- that background because I will when I talk about Jodrell, reveal the remarkable episode concerning Lord Nuffield and my wife, and also her relations with the engineering husband. Now I thought I ought to mention that because that’s a partnership which I as you know sustained, certainly sustained me through all that I’ve already talked about and all that I am going to talk about, particularly while we’re all living here. Just having revised my life so to speak for the purposes of talking about it now, I’m just astonished that I managed to survive it all, but I realise now it’s because there was always the secure background.

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: Jodrell Bank, Bristol, Bath, HH Wills Physics Laboratory, Cambridge, Froebel Training College, Bedford, Cheshire, Swettenham, World War II, Derek Chesterman, Joyce Chesterman

Duration: 7 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008