After the Daventry Demonstration
- Robert Watson Watt
Robert Watson Watt was born in Aberdeenshire in 1892. He took his
Physics degree at Dundee University and joined the Meteorological
Office in 1915 and was soon based at the R.A.F. establishment at
Farnborough. His main responsibility was to devise methods of detecting
thunderstorms. One special characteristic that might be utilized
was the large quantities of electrostatic energy that is dissipated
by a thunderstorm.
Storm detection was considered very important because the early
aircraft were not constructed to cope with bad weather and so it
was imperative that they should have prior warning of any oncoming
stormy weather and also to know the direction of that storm.
In 1922, the first cathode ray tubes were made available and he
managed to combine this new technology with a basic radio direction
Thus in 1923, with the assistance of J.F.Herd, he managed to construct
a low-sensitivity radio direction finder that could give the direction
of an incoming storm. By 1927, he was appointed the first Superintendent
of the Radio Research Station at Slough. This unit was under the
auspices of the National Physical Laboratory. In his role as Superintendent,
Watson Watt was generally popular, considerate to his staff, always
enthusiastic and kept in close contact with the work of his team.
of his unit for high quality and innovative research explains why
His internal memos were quite famous for he would often write them
on the back of calendar leaves.
sought his views concerning the issues that A.P.Rowe had raised.
However, there was another side to this man; his biographer (Ronald
Clark)describes him as a, " blunt, outspoken, self-confident,
exuberant, ambitious and devoutly patriotic man".
It is therefore more accurate to say of Watson Watt that he was
the man who had the tenacity and ability to pull a number of ideas
and strands together from his own work and that of other people.
History suggests that he owed a particular debt of gratitude to
the capabilities of his assistant at the time, A.F. Wilkins.
Dr G. L. Hutchinson
He was knighted in 1942, awarded the US Medal of Merit in 1946 and
died in 1973.