TRIBUTES have been paid to a hero of the space age who established one of Cheshire’s most iconic structures.
Sir Bernard Lovell, the founder of Jodrell Bank, died peacefully at home, aged 98, surrounded by his family on Monday, August 6.
The professor of radioastronomy leaves behind four children, 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren and will be remembered by hundreds of scientists who he inspired over the last seven decades.
During the Second World War, Sir Bernard led the team that developed aircraft radar systems, for which he was later awarded the OBE.
In 1945, he began work on cosmic rays using ex-military radar equipment at Jodrell Bank, founding the world-famous observatory which exists today.
“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate his legacy,” said Dr Tim O’Brien, astrophysicist at Jodrell Bank.
“Leaving aside the amazing work he did during the war, this place wouldn’t have existed without him.
“The big Lovell Telescope named after him is the obvious icon.
“But if you think over the decades there have been many hundreds of scientists, engineers and students who have worked here because of him and gone on to further astronomy across the world.”
Sir Bernard worked with Sir Charles Husband to create the 76-metre Lovell Telescope, a feat of engineering which tracked the rocket that carried Sputnik 1 into orbit in 1957.
Today it still plays a key role in world-leading research into pulsars and testing extreme physics such as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
Sir Bernard created Jodrell Bank’s first visitor centre in the 1960s and his last visit to the site was in April 2011 for a tour of the new £3million discovery centre.
Tim added: “We’ve had well over four million visitors since that first centre opened. I’ve spoken to so many people who went there as children and it inspired them.
“Sir Bernard continued to come here to work until a few years ago and we were still in touch with him.
“He wanted to keep up-to-date with the science that goes on here. It was dear to his heart. He was an amazing man. We will miss him.”
Despite several funding threats, Jodrell Bank observatory was placed on the Government’s shortlist for World Heritage Site status for its role in our understanding of the Universe.
Later this year it will also run the most powerful radio telescope on the planet - the Square Kilometre Array, an international network linking 3,000 stations.
Sir Bernard was born on August 31, 1913 in Gloucestershire and studied at the University of Bristol before coming to Manchester to work in the Department of Physics in 1936.
He would have celebrated his 100th birthday in just over a year.
Outside the world of science he was an accomplished musician, playing the organ at the Swettenham Church and was captain of Chelford Cricket Club.
A book of condolence was opened at Jodrell Bank discovery centre today, Tuesday. Funeral details were yet to be announced as the Guardian went to press.
Fiona Bruce MP described it as a ‘tremendous privilege’ that one of the world’s greatest astronomers, lived and worked in the area.
She said: “I pay tribute to the tremendous legacy which Sir Bernard Lovell has left.
“Not least through the fact that Jodrell Bank continues to operate very much as originally designed by him over 50 years ago.
“That we, as a country, are world leaders in the field of radio astronomy is very much due to the pioneering work of Sir Bernard.
“What particularly impressed me on my visit recently was the fact that those working there today do so very much in partnership and co-operation with astrophysicists and astronomers from many different parts of the globe.
“This sharing of knowledge in order to jointly push forward the frontiers of our understanding of space is very much the result of Sir Bernard’s collaborative approach towards his field of work for the benefit of everyone.”