Universiteit Leiden

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Early Dutch Radio Astronomy (1940-1970)

Promotores: F.H. van Lunteren, F.P. Israel

Auteur Astrid Elbers
Links Thesis in Leiden Repository

Radio astronomy was born during the Second World War. The early post-war radio astronomy group in the Netherlands was one of the most important radio astronomy groups in the world. There are several reasons for this. Firstly: Dutch radio astronomers were trained as (optical) astronomers, while in most countries engineers and physicists with a background in wartime radar research were the first radio ‘astronomers’. This was because radio telescopes shared the technology of wartime radar installations. Because Dutch astronomers were not familiar with the new kind of instrumentation, they had to conclude strategic alliances with industrial partners such as Philips, the PTT and the KNMI. These alliances would offer much more than merely technical know-how, which means that the disadvantage would prove to be an advantage in the end. Secondly: astronomy was still a very small-scale undertaking in the early post-war period. Even so, ZWO was still a very small organisation. The fact that so few people were involved meant that the impact of a personal network could be enormous. Thirdly: the Dutch post-war context was remarkably favourable to science: it was considered to be a key factor in the rebuilding of the country.