I returned to London after the war in 1947 and was given the option of sciences or arts, and I chose science because I thought there was a possibility of a career there, whereas in the arts there seemed to be very little way of making a living. Around that time I was more interested in electronics. Vacuum tubes were starting to be available, and I read a lot about how radio worked. I went through a period from age 12 onward where I’d take up a subject like electronics or photography and I would read absolutely everything I could lay my hands on to try to understand how to put the whole picture together. I found that those early experiences were very useful later in life. Very often I have found it necessary to pick up a complete field within a period of weeks and try to understand how it worked, and be able to integrate it with the rest of what I did.
The Lovell Telescope: The 76-m Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester.
Credit: Mike Peel, Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester
I left school in 1951 and was conscripted into the Army. I was eventually sent to Korea for a year. After the year in Korea, I returned to England in 1953 to study at Manchester University and majored in physics. I decided to major in physics because it seemed the right way to end up in electronics which really interested me. But later I decided that if at all possible I wanted to be an astronomer. I didn’t realize when I chose to go there that Manchester was very active in radio and theoretical astronomy.
I decided to be an astronomer in 1955, and in 1957 Sputnik 1 went up. In the United States there was a great deal of concern and as a result there became a demand for astronomers. The event created opportunities everywhere.