Robert Watson-Watt

Robert Watson-Watt

Robert Watson-Watt, the son of a carpenter, was born in Brechin, Scotland, on 13th April, 1892. A direct descendant of James Watt, Watson-Watt was educated at University of St Andrews.

Watson-Watt joined the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough as a meteorologist in 1915. Watson-Watt used his knowledge of radio to try and devise a system to warn airman of local thunderstorms. During the First World War he researched the idea of developing a rapid method of displaying radio signals on aircraft and in 1916 proposed the use of cathode ray oscilloscopes to provide this information to pilots.

In 1924 Watson-Watt moved to the recently established Radio Research Station in Slough. Three years later he became superintendent of the station before moving to the new radio department at the National Physics Laboratory (NPL) in 1933.

In 1935 Watson-Watt wrote a paper entitled The Detection of Aircraft by Radio Methods. This was presented to Henry Tizard, the chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air Defence. Tizard was impressed with the idea and on 26th February 1935, Watson-Watt demonstrated his ideas at Daventry. As a result he was appointed head of the Bawdsey Research Station in Felixstowe.

By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 Watson-Watt had designed and installed a chain of radar stations along the East and South coast of England. During the Battle of Britain these stations were able to detect enemy aircraft at any time of day and in any weather conditions.

Watson-Watt became scientific adviser to the Air Ministry in 1940 and the following year went to the United States where he providing advice of building radar stations. In 1942 Watson-Watt was knighted for his role in the development of radar.

After the war Watson-Watt was awarded £50,000 by the British government for his contribution in the development of radar. Robert Watson-Watt, who published Three Steps to Victory in 1958, died in Inverness, Scotland on 5th December, 1973.