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No funding for the 400ft telescope


The Fleck Commitee: Permission to build a 400ft telescope
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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The... the government set up... when they discovered that I was attempting to build rather fantastic things like a 600ft telescope and... had built under what I considered to be a prototype of quite a big instrument, they decided to set up a committee to investigate what I was doing. The committee was under Lord Fleck, who was then the head of... of Imperial Chemical industries. He was very nice. We got on extremely well together, but as a result of the Fleck committee, after I retired, I wrote a book I called The Jodrell Bank Telescopes, which contains all this very detailed information of what happened in my attempt to build larger and larger telescopes, and I... I had a number of proposals.

I wanted to close the road going past Jodrell and build a railway track across it and build another 200ft or 250ft telescope, so that we could use the very powerful interferometer and move it across the road. They still... that was soon objected to, unfortunately. That time there was no motorway and it was not all that traffic along that road. The result of all the deliberations of the Fleck Committee... resulted in the fact that they more or less agreed that I could proceed to design a... a... not a 600ft, but a 400ft paraboloid. Now, this proceeded.

I... again, Husband became the consulting engineer on this telescope and we wanted to build it, not at Jodrell, but in a... a valley in Wales, so that at low elevation, we... we would be screened from interference by the surrounding hills. And I searched many places in Wales and eventually, with the help of the... the person named Ririd Myddleton, who was then living at Chirk Castle of ancient descent, who knew Wales very well. He... we drove around Wales and we discovered a place near Welshpool, which suited us ideally. There was... there... there took place a prolonged enquiry, a public enquiry when, when we applied, we bought the... we bought the suitable field near Meifod, and this would have been ideal for the site of a 400ft telescope.

We, we had erected a mast and measured the wind, and had a public enquiry, held in Welshpool, which went on for nearly a week, as well the... against the people nearby, who were objecting to us building such an instrument in that beautiful valley. Well, we were... the public enquiry was in our favour, and we had permission to build the 400ft telescope in Meifod in Wales. The design proceeded under... this time, in conjunction, full conjunction, with the DSIR. We had a full committee working on it. It wasn't... not just left to me, and eventually in... I presume, must have been 1970s, thereabouts, Husband had completed the design. We had a most beautiful model of this 400 ft telescope, and in many ways, it would have been analogous to the 250ft telescope with a... with a series of bogies, not just the four bogies we had, but there’s a whole series of bogies moving on the railway track. And I think would have been a very powerful telescope. It would have been good down to X 3 centimetres, and then something happened, which suddenly led to us... not suddenly, but eventually led to its cancellation.

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, Wales, Alexander Fleck, Charles Husband

Duration: 5 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008