Astronomy Bio...Grote Reber

Jay Bitterman

Grote Reber was born in Wheaton, Illinois, on December 22, 1911. After graduation from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he became a radio engineer. After the discovery of cosmic radio rays by Karl Jansky, Reber was one of the first to enter this new field.

In 1937 he completed the construction of a 9-meter diameter bowl shaped reflector with an antenna at its focus, in the garden of his Illinois home. Now he started to map radio sources in the sky, notably those that seemed to come from the direction of the Milky Way. He reviewed his first results with astronomers at the Yerkes Observatory for discussion. At the time, and for a number of years, Reber's radio telescope was probably the only one in existence. Acceptable explanations of radio emission and radio sources came with the further development of radio astronomy. Since the resolution of his home made apparatus was limited to 12, he could only identify the general direction of the source of radio waves. He compiled a map of the sky, but the many radio sources did not have an optically identifiable presence. The most intense radiation he recorded emanated from the direction of Sagittarius, near the center of the Galaxy.

By 1939 he accumulated enough data to create the first radio map of the celestial environment and in 1944 he published his findings.

In 1947 he took his telescope to Virginia where he was appointed chief of the University's Experimental Microwave Radio Section.

In 1951 he moved to Hawaii to work with a new telescope that was more sensitive to lower frequencies. The radio telescope in Hawaii was a great improvement in facilities for him, because it was sensitive to lower frequencies.

In 1954 he moved to Australia, to join the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Tasmania.

In 1957 he went to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, in West Virginia to work with the 43-meter radio telescope installed there.

In 1961 he returned to Tasmania to help complete a map of radio sources emitting waves around 144 meters in length.

Reber, at one time, was the world's only radio astronomer and was truly a pioneer in the new aspect of astronomical science.

He died in Tasmania on Dec 20, 2002.