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Jodrell Bank Observatory Archive

Date range: c.1924–90.

Papers relating to the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, deposited by Sir Bernard Lovell (b. 1913),  Professor of Radio Astronomy at Manchester University and Director of Jodrell Bank, 1951–80.

The first radar transmitter and receiver was installed by Lovell at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, in December 1945. In the late 1940s he conceived the idea of a steerable telescope with a paraboloid or reflecting bowl of 250-feet diameter.

Construction began in October 1952 and the telescope's first act was to track the rocket that carried Sputnik 1 into space in October 1957. Since then it has been involved in many astronomical and space research projects. Formerly known as the Mark 1A, in July 1987 it was renamed the Lovell Telescope.

It remains one of the largest steerable radio telescopes in the world.

The archive contains extensive files of correspondence, telexes, papers relating to the funding and construction of the telescope, papers relating to the history of computing and early computers developed at Manchester, accounting records, scientific reports, telescope log-books, research notebooks and copies of papers and articles published by Lovell and others. 

There is correspondence with international organizations, national funding bodies and research institutes, and individual scientists in Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union.

There is also a quantity of pre-war material including Lovell’s school reports, and papers and notes for Lovell’s research into thin films and cosmic-ray showers.

The archive constitutes a key source for the history of radio astronomy and science in general, and for studies of the funding and organization of scientific research and higher education.

Finding aids


Main Library

Using the reading room in the Main Library

Further information

For the history of Jodrell Bank, technical details about the telescopes, and news of current research activities, visit the Jodrell Bank website.