About The Man

The Sir Robert Watson-Watt was born in Brechin, Angus, Scotland on the 13th April 1892 and was educated at Damacre School in Brechin and Brechin High School. He graduated with a BSc (engineering) in 1912 from University College, Dundee which was then part of the University of St Andrews. Following graduation he was offered an assistantship by Professor William Peddie who excited his interest in radio waves.In 1915 Watson-Watt started as a meteorologist at the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough with the aim of applying his knowledge of radio to locate thunderstorms so as to provide warnings to airmen.

During this period Watson-Watt recognised the need for a rapid method of recording and display of radio signals and in 1916 he proposed the use of cathode ray oscilloscopes for this purpose, however these did not become available until 1923.In 1924 Watson-Watts work moved to Slough where the Radio Research Station had been formed and in 1927, following an amalgamation with the National Physics Laboratory (NPL), he became Superintendent of an outstation of the NPL at Slough. After a further re-organisation in 1933 Watson-Watt became Superintendent of a new radio department at the NPL in Teddington.

Following an approach from H.E. Wimperis of the Air Ministry, enquiring about the feasibility of producing a ‘death ray’, Watson-Watt, with the help of his assistant Arnold Wilkins, drafted, in February 1935, a report titled ‘The Detection of Aircraft by Radio Methods’. This was presented to the newly formed committee for the scientific survey of air defence, chaired by Sir Henry Tizard, and on 26th of February 1935 a trial took place using the BBCs short-wave (about 50 metres wavelength) radio transmitter at Daventry against a Heyford Bomber. The trial was a success and on 1st September 1936 Watson-Watt became Superintendent of a new establishment under the Air Ministry, Bawdsey Research Station in Bawdsey Manor near Felixstowe. The pioneering work that Watson-Watt managed at this establishment resulted in the design and installation of a chain of radar stations along the East and South coast of England in time for the outbreak of war in 1939. This system, known as Chain Home and Chain Home Low, provided the vital advance information that helped the Royal Air Force to win the Battle of Britain

The letter that changed the course of History

The letter that changed the course of History

The Birth Certificate of RadarWatson- Watt’s ‘numerical considerations on the method of detection by reflected radio waves’ were sent to Tizard’s committee and a first draft memorandum entitled ‘Detection of aircraft by radio methods’ was forwarded on the 12th February 1935. It was followed by a final draft entitled ‘Detection and location of aircraft by radio methods’.In this memorandum – “the Birth Certificate of Radar” – Watson-Watt put forward his proposals in impressive detail. He estimated the strength of the radio signal reflected from an aircraft and discussed the optimum wavelength. He outlined how the range of the target could be measured by the use of short pulses and the plan position by the use of three range measurements; furthermore he suggested that a cathode-ray direction-finder might be developed to measure the bearing and elevation.

Other Interesting Facts about The Man :

  • Born in Brechin on 13th April 1892
  • Attended Damacre Primary School and Brechin High School
  • Won a bursary to St Andrew’s University and studied electrical engineering at University College, Dundee
  • Served as assistant to Prof. William Peddie (St Andrews University) developing an interest in radio waves
  • In 1915 started work as a meteorologist for the Aircraft Factory, Farnborough
  • By 1942 he was working at the Radio Research Station and then became head of the National Physics Laboratory’s new radio department at Slough
  • Early in 1935 was joint author of an Air Ministry report entitled ‘The Detection of Aircraft by Radio Methods’On 26 February 1935 a secret and highly successful trial using a short radio transmitter took place at Daventry
  • He was President of the Royal Meteorological Society 1949-1951
  • He was appointed head of the newly established Bawdsey Radio Research Station near Felix
  • By the outbreak of war in 1939, as a result of work done by the team led by Watson-Watt, a radar defence system – code name ‘Chain Home’ – was designed and built along the East and South coasts of Britain, which played a crucial part in the defeat of the German Luftwaffe
  • His book ‘Three Steps to Victory’ details his team’s achievements during World War II Robert Watson-Watt was elected FRS and knighted in 1942
  • He was also awarded the United States of America Medal of Merit
  • He died on 5 December 1973 and is buried at Pitlochry

3 responses to “About The Man

    • Having watched the BBC drama with great interest I was saddened to see the affect on his home life. Was this accurate and did it cost him his marriage as appeared?? He seemed to have been treated shabbily.

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