The pioneering astronomer behind radar and the iconic Jodrell Bank centre where Sputnik 1's ascension into orbit was tracked, Sir Bernard Lovell, has died aged 98.
The Bristol-born Lovell led the World War II team that developed radar technology, and was the driving force between the establishment of the 76m telescope at Jodrell Bank in 1957. It has gone through three upgrades since being built, but is still the third largest steerable telescope in the world.
"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. A great man, he will be sorely missed," said the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, announcing Lovell's death.
The Jodrell Bank observatory has played a leading role in the investigation of much of the heavens, helping astronomers study meteors, quasars, pulsars and gravitational lenses – as well as space craft.
It also formed a central tenet of the UK's Cold War defences, providing a watching station for intercontinental nuclear missiles.
Lovell led the establishment of the observatory at the site in 1945, when he housed gun laying radar kit at the site to investigate cosmic rays. He'd been prevented from using the equipment at his rooms at Manchester University where he worked because passing trams generated too much electrical interference.
Such was Lovell's prominence, that he became a target of Soviet hitmen during the Cold War, who he claimed tried to kill him with a lethal dose of radiation.
He died peacefully at his home, near his beloved telescope just a few weeks shy of his 99th birthday.
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