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Jodrell Bank Observatory Archive

Date range: c.1924–present

Medium: Archive

Archive of the Jodrell Bank Observatory. The Observatory, which opened in 1957, is the UK's largest radio-telescope. The Observatory's first Director, Sir Bernard Lovell (1913-2012), played an important role in developing the archive, which is currently strongest for the period from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Lovell set up the first radar transmitter and receiver at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, in December 1945. Initially, this was used to study meteor showers, but work soon extended into studying phenomena outside of the solar system. In the late 1940s Lovell 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 major act was to track the rocket that carried the Sputnik 1 satellite 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.

The Observatory's extensive archive comprises a range of different documents relating to the Observatory's work. Particularly important are none series of correspondence, primarily of the Observatory’s first Director, Sir Bernard Lovell, which date from the 1940s to the 1980s, and provide information on a range of subjects. These files provide detailed information on the project to construct the Mark1 telescope, plus subsequent telescopes in use at the Observatory. They are also informative about the Observatory's relations with international organizations, national funding bodies and research institutes, and other astronomers in Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as the Observatory's relations with the local community at Jodrell Bank and the general public.

The archive also includes many of the Observatory's log books, scientific reports, telex reports, and selected publications of Observatory staff. 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 Observatory's archive is 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.

See also:

Further information:

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • Additional catalogue of material available via Special Collections reading rooms.


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