Sir Bernard Lovell, pioneer astronomer who built innovative radio telescope, dies

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Sir Bernard Lovell, the radio astronomer who was one of the 20th-century’s leaders in the age-old effort to understand the secrets of the heavens, died Aug. 6 at his home in the village of Swettenham, in the English county of Cheshire. He was 98.

Much of Bernard Lovell’s groundbreaking work revolved around the use of a powerful and innovative scientific instrument, the celebrated radio telescope he built and operated for many years at the Jodrell Bank observatory in northwest England.

As Lovell was one of the first to show starting in the 1940s, faint electromagnetic signals from remote reaches of the universe can be collected, analyzed and interpreted to discern basic information about the cosmos.

As one of the foremost figures in radio astronomy since its earliest days, Lovell, an emeritus professor at the University of Manchester, was celebrated in science and beyond. The Jodrell Bank observatory, operated by the university and named for the place where it was built, has also become widely known.

The principal radio telescope at Jodrell Bank was completed in 1957 and has been named for Lovell.

Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell was born in Oldland Common, near Bristol, on Aug. 31, 1913.

In 1936, he received a doctorate in physics from the University of Bristol. His early work involved the use of a cloud chamber to detect and study cosmic rays. During World War II, he led a radar development group. Lovell, who was knighted in 1961, was a fellow of the Royal Society and a past president of the Royal Astronomical Society. He wrote several books, including a memoir he called “Astronomer by Chance” (1990). He was known for an interest in educating the public about science.

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