Lovell, Sir Bernard

Lovell, Sir Bernard

▪ British scientist
born Aug. 31, 1913, Oldland Common, Gloucestershire, Eng.

      English radio astronomer, founder and director (1951–81) of England's Jodrell Bank Experimental Station (Jodrell Bank Observatory).

      Lovell attended the University of Bristol, from which he received the Ph.D. degree in 1936. After a year as an assistant lecturer in physics at the University of Manchester, he became a member of the cosmic-ray research team at that institution, working in this capacity until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, when he published his first book, Science and Civilization. During World War II, Lovell worked for the Air Ministry, doing valuable research in the use of radar for detection and navigation purposes for which he was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1946.

      On returning to the University of Manchester in 1945 as a lecturer in physics, Lovell acquired a surplus army radar set for use in his research on cosmic rays. Because interference from the surrounding city hampered his efforts, he moved the equipment, which included a searchlight base, to Jodrell Bank, an open field located about 20 miles south of Manchester. Shortly thereafter, authorities at the university agreed to provide him with a permanent establishment at the site, which already belonged to the university's botany department, and to sponsor the construction of his first radio telescope, for which he used the searchlight base as a mounting.

      Lovell's initial investigations with the instrument involved the study of meteors (meteor and meteoroid). About 15 years earlier, when radio waves had been bounced off meteors during certain meteor showers, some astronomers had noted that the number of meteors observed visually was much smaller than the number of radio echoes received, an indication that the showers actually consisted of more meteors than could be seen. To determine if the echoes were meteoric in origin, Lovell used his new radio telescope to observe a particularly intense meteor shower on the night of Oct. 9–10, 1946. As the shower first increased and later decreased in intensity, radio signals from the instrument's transmitter were directed toward the shower. Throughout the evening, not only did the number of optical sightings coincide with the number of radio echoes being received, but the timing of the two rates was also as predicted, conclusively proving that the echoes were caused by the meteors. Having established this fact, Lovell could now apply radio techniques to meteor showers previously unknown because they occurred during daylight hours. Further experiments showed that orbits of meteors are elliptical, confirming the belief that these bodies are members of the solar system and are not of interstellar origin.

      In recognition of his work and growing reputation, Lovell was appointed by the University of Manchester to the position of senior lecturer in 1947 and reader in 1949; from 1951 to 1980 he was professor of radio astronomy at the university. During this time, he had already begun planning and building a bigger and more sophisticated radio telescope, which, when it was completed in 1957, was the world's largest of its kind, with a diameter of 250 feet. The structure rotates horizontally at 20° per minute, and the reflector itself moves vertically at 24° per minute. While work on the telescope was in progress, Lovell published Radio Astronomy (1952), Meteor Astronomy (1954), and The Exploration of Space by Radio (1957).

 Lovell frankly admitted that it was mainly the prospect of using the new radio telescope to track the first Sputnik, scheduled for launch by the Soviet Union on Oct. 4, 1957, that spurred his efforts to complete the instrument by that time. By supplying a much-needed boost to the prestige of the project at a time when it was being seriously threatened by rapidly rising costs, this application of the instrument guaranteed its success and Lovell's personal fame. Ever since, the giant radio telescope at Jodrell Bank has been a vital tool for pinpointing the exact locations of Earth satellites, space probes, and manned space flights, as well as for collecting data transmitted by instruments in some of these vehicles.

      Because of the widespread publicity given to Jodrell Bank and its director, coupled with the latter's reputation as a popularizer of science, the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1958 invited Lovell to give a series of radio talks, known as the Reith Lectures, which were published in 1959 as The Individual and the Universe. When Lovell was knighted (1961) for his pioneering work in radio astronomy, 20 investigations—mostly on radio emissions originating thousands of millions of light years away—were in progress at Jodrell Bank. Some of this work is discussed in his book The Exploration of Outer Space (1962). His research has since been concerned mainly with cosmology; radio emissions from outer space, including those from pulsars (discovered in 1968); the measurement of the angular diameters of distant quasars; and flare stars.

      Lovell received a number of honorary degrees from various academic institutions as well as honorary membership in several academies and organizations. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1955, receiving its Royal Medal in 1960. From 1969 to 1971 he was president of the Royal Astronomical Society, and he received the Society's Gold Medal in 1981.

Michael Anthony Hoskin Ed.

Additional Reading
A good summary of Lovell's scientific work is given in McGraw-Hill Modern Scientists and Engineers, vol. 2, pp. 247–249 (1980). See also Shirley Thomas (ed.), Men of Space, vol. 8, pp. 24–28 (1968); and Patrick M.S. Blackett, A Biographical Memoir (1976). The building and accomplishments of the Jodrell Bank telescope are described in full by Lovell himself in his Story of Jodrell Bank (1968), and in Out of the Zenith: Jodrell Bank 1957–1970 (1973). Later works by Lovell include The Origins and International Economics of Space Exploration (1973); Man's Relation to the Universe (1975); In the Center of Immensities (1978); and Emerging Cosmology (1981).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sir Bernard Lovell — noun English astronomer who pioneered radio astronomy (born in 1913) • Syn: ↑Lovell, ↑Sir Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell • Instance Hypernyms: ↑astronomer, ↑uranologist, ↑stargazer …   Useful english dictionary

  • Lovell , Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard — (1913–) British radio astronomer Lovell was born at Oldland Common and received his PhD in 1936 from the University of Bristol; in the same year was appointed as a lecturer in physics at the University of Manchester. In 1945, after war service on …   Scientists

  • Lovell, Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard — born Aug. 31, 1913, Oldland Common, Gloucestershire, Eng. British radio astronomer. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Bristol, worked for the Air Ministry during World War II, and lectured at the University of Manchester after the war …   Universalium

  • Lovell, Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard — (n. 31 ago. 1913, Oldland Common, Gloucestershire, Inglaterra). Radioastrónomo británico. Obtuvo su doctorado en la Universidad de Bristol, trabajó para el Ministerio del aire durante la segunda guerra mundial y fue profesor en la Universidad de… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bernard Lovell — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Lovell. Sir Bernard Lovell, crédit: Jodrell Bank, Université de Manchester Sir Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell, OBE (31 août …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sir Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell — noun English astronomer who pioneered radio astronomy (born in 1913) • Syn: ↑Lovell, ↑Sir Bernard Lovell • Instance Hypernyms: ↑astronomer, ↑uranologist, ↑stargazer …   Useful english dictionary

  • Bernard — Bernard, Claude * * * (as used in expressions) Albinus, Bernard Siegfried Baruch, Bernard (Mannes) Berenson, Bernard Bernard, Claude Henriette Rosine Bernard Bosanquet, Bernard Bernard Schwartz De Voto, Bernard (Augustine) Foucault, Jean (Bernard …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Lovell — Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard …   Scientists

  • Bernard Lovell — Infobox Person name = Sir Bernard Lovell residence = other names = image size = 240px caption = Image credit: Jodrell Bank, University of Manchester birth name = Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell birth date = birth date and age|1913|8|31 birth place …   Wikipedia

  • Lovell — noun English astronomer who pioneered radio astronomy (born in 1913) • Syn: ↑Sir Bernard Lovell, ↑Sir Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell • Instance Hypernyms: ↑astronomer, ↑uranologist, ↑stargazer * * * /lov euhl/, n …   Useful english dictionary

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