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The first images on my cathode ray tube at Jodrell Bank


Looking for somewhere to work with no electrical interference
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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I asked Rainford, who was then the Deputy Bursar if the university had any land away from the university with no electrical interference. So he said, 'Yes, we've got a place near Hodgekiss. We've got a place at High Legh. Why don't you have a look at that?' So I went to High Legh. This was in the autumn of 1945, and it was a day of misty rain and I immediately returned, because there are high voltage lines over this particularly piece of land in High Legh, and they were already sizzling with electic sparks. So I returned, and the next day or the day after, again I said to Rainford, 'No good. Do you have anywhere else?' And he said, 'Well, there's a man over there, you see that man smoking a pipe? He is in charge of the... the university botanic grounds of a place called Jodrell Bank. See if you can interest him'. His name was Sansome.

Now, another remarkable piece of good fortune. Sansome, I hadn't met him before but I told him that I'd just arrived back with this apparatus and he was fascinated. He'd seen that and wondered whatever it was. He turned out to be a keen radio man, and I said, 'Look, I understand you have some land about 20 miles south of Jodrell. Is there any chance of having your permission to take this equipment out there where there is no electricity and seeing if I can free myself of interference?' I reported this to Blackett and Blackett spoke to the Vice Chancellor who was then Sir John Stopford, later Lord Stopford, fortunately a very distinguished scientist, a medical man in fact, another piece of good fortune, having a sympathetic Vice Chancellor.

Now, Stopford quite reasonably thought and had anxiety that those of us who had been away dealing with massive things for six years probably would never be able to return to research and teaching and university. Furthermore, he took the point of view that... that the main point for those of us coming back would be to help restore teaching and get on with the university. So with some reluctance he said to Blackett, 'Why don't we agree that Lovell can take these trailers there for a couple of weeks and then find out what he wants and then come back into the university?' So I again summoned Hey and he arranged for the army to come back and tow my trailers out to Jodrell Bank.

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: High Legh, Cheshire, Jodrell Bank, Patrick Blackett, John Stopford

Duration: 3 minutes, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008