BHS logoDr Grote Reber


'The father of radio astronomy' came from Chicago to Australia in 1955.  After completing a degree in astronomy, Grote Reber's interest was furthered by Karl Jansky, who had discovered radio waves emanating from space, while working for General Electric.

Dr Grote Reber constructed various gadgets (now in the Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC) culminating in the construction of a radio telescope in his backyard.  All satellite-receiving dishes are modelled on this first radio telescope.

His work in radio astronomy gained Dr Reber an endowment from the Science Foundation.  This allowed him to travel to Tasmania, where he predicted that during periods of low sunspot activity, a hole in the ionosphere would open and he would be able to receive long wavelength radio emissions.

First he constructed a rough instrument for radio wave reception by stringing wire between two hills at Kempton.  Further conversation with fellow scientists at the CSIRO then led him to a wide flat plain at 'Dennistoun', Bothwell, in 1962.

An area of 121 ha was dotted with extra-long 'hydro' poles, 18m above ground, and strung with wire as a grid running east-west.  This could roughly be aligned at various elevations to the horizon.  The 'instrument' was tuned to receive radio waves and worked well for some years.  The waves were approximately the size used for broadcasting bands and by applying scientific method Dr Reber could sort out astronomical radio waves from those originating from the earth.

In 1982 Dr Reber was presented with the Royal Society of Tasmania's medal in recognition of his pioneering contribution to radio astronomy.  In 1986 he was a special guest at the opening of the Mt Pleasant Observatory at Cambridge near Hobart.  This southern-most radio telescope in the world was a gift from NASA, USA.  Even in his nineties, Dr Reber's scientific mind was undiminished.

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