Postwar Radio Astronomy and the US Military

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Session 1 -- Astronomy and the State
Oral presentation, Tuesday, January 11, 9:00-5:00, Salons A & B Room (Crystal City Marriott)

[1.06] Postwar Radio Astronomy and the US Military

W. T. Sullivan, III (U. Washington)

The course of radio astronomy in the United States during the period 1945-60 was greatly influenced by the funding and requirements of the US military. The scientific researchers and their military patrons continued the intimate relationship that had been so successful for the development of radar and communications during World War II. The result was a very high level of funding that led to large-scale projects, a concentration on the microwave portion of the radio spectrum, and primary interest in the sun, moon, and planets. These effects, however, ironically significantly contributed to the lag in US radio astronomy relative to that in Australia and England. Unlike the American approach, the strategy of the groups in Sydney, Cambridge and Jodrell Bank, reasoned that the most fruitful way to approach the radio sky at the time was with relatively simple equipment (largely revamped war surplus) operating at the lower frequencies. Other factors, such as the strength of optical astronomy in the US, also played important roles. By the mid-1960s, the microwave expertise that had been developed in the US finally paid off such that US radio astronomy was at last able to assume a position of more parity. Some similarities in the development of postwar Soviet radio astronomy will also be discussed.

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