Astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell Dies At 98
August 8, 2012

The Passing Of A Legend: Astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell Passes Away

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A great astronomer and physicist of our generation, Sir Bernard Lovell, died on August 6 at the age of 98-years-old.

Bernard, who was born near Bristol, England, was the founder of University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory, which tracked the landing of the first man on the moon in 1969.

The observatory hosts the third largest steerable telescope in the world, which was an idea conceived by Bernard as well.

During World War II, Bernard led a team developing radar technology, for which he was awarded an Order of the British Empire award, an award given to British nationals who help make an impact on the U.K.

After the war, he started building his 249-foot telescope, completing it in 1957. Just within a few days after becoming operational, the telescope was able to track the rocket carrying Sputnik 1 into orbit.

Bernard became Sir Bernard after being knighted in 1961 for his many contributions to science.

"Bernard Lovell ranks as one of the great visionary leaders of science." Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, told BBC News. "He had the boldness and self-confidence to conceive a giant radio telescope, and the persistence to see it through to completion, despite the risk of bankruptcy."

He said that 50 years later, his instrument is still doing "frontier" science, after several upgrades have taken place.

"I recall the celebrations of the telescope's 50th anniversary in 2007," Rees told BBC. "Lovell, though nearly blind, played a full part in the festivities and made a superb speech. "He rightly took great pride in this lasting monument."

A university spokesman said Bernard had kept up his interest in the development of science at Jodrell Bank.

"Indeed he continued to come in to work at the Observatory until quite recently when ill health intervened," a spokesman wrote on the Jodrell Bank website.

Although Bernard was passionate about astronomy, he was also an accomplished musician and an internationally renowned arboriculturalist.

Professor Brian Cox, who knew Bernard and works inside the CERN laboratory, said he was a great scientist.

"He was a pioneer of radio astronomy and almost invented the subject," Cox told BBC. "He built the leading telescope and that radio study of the sky has contributed a vast amount to our understanding of the universe."

In a tribute to Bernard, Jodrell Bank published a note on its website, talking about the man that founded the observatory.

"In person, Sir Bernard was warm and generous," Jodrell Bank wrote. "He retained a keen interest in the development of science at Jodrell Bank and beyond."

"Sir Bernard´s legacy is immense, extending from his wartime work to his pioneering contributions to radio astronomy and including his dedication to education and public engagement with scientific research."

The observatory added that he was a "great man," and he would be "sorely missed."