Physicist and radio astronomer, born on 31 August 1912 at Oldland Common, Bristol into a Methodist family. Church organs became one of his lifelong interests. He was educated at Kingswood Grammar School and Bristol University, where he took a BSc in 1934 and a PhD in 1936 on electrical conductivity. He worked in the cosmic ray research team at Manchester University and then during World War II on radar systems in the Telecommunications Research Establishment. Resuming his research on cosmic rays, with university funding he built what was then the world's largest steerable radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, now known as the Lovell Telescope. In 2009 he claimed that he had been the subject of an assassination attempt during a visit to the Soviet Deep-Space Communications Centre, because of the telescope's use in an early warning system during the Cold War.
He gave the Reith Lectures in 1958 on 'The Individual and the Universe', theMacmillan Memorial Lecture in 1959 on 'Radio Astronomy and the Structure of the Universe', and in 1977 the presidential address to the British Association on 'In the Centre of Immensities'.
He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1955, President of the Royal Astronomical Society 1969-1971 and was also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He received an OBE in 1946, a Royal Medal in 1960, an honorary DSc at the University of Bath in1967, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1980 and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1981.
He died at Swettenham, Cheshire on 6 August 2012.