Saturday, December 21, 2013

Grote Reber

Grote Reber was born on December 22, 1911 in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois. His father was a lawyer and the part owner of a canning factory. He died when Reber was 21. His mother was an middle school teacher and had among her students Edwin Hubble, who her son would later discuss cosmology with. Reber earned a degree in electrical engineering from the Armour Institute of Technology (now the Illinois Institute of Technology) in 1933. Reber excelled at mathematics and electronics and after graduation he worked a series of jobs at Chicago area radio manufacturers.

In his spare time Reber was an amateur radio enthusiast and after contacting 150 countries with his radio he was looking for a new challenge. He read about Karl Jansky who had discovered cosmic radio emissions coming from the region of the constellation Sagittarius. Reber took the summer of from his engineering job and used $2000 of his own money (the equivalent of  his annual salary) to build a 32 foot parabolic radio radio antenna in the vacant lot next to his mother's house. After series of failures in 1939 Reber was able to detect galactic radio emissions and used his antenna to make maps of the radio emissions from the sky. Reber was forced to make his observations during the night and early morning hours due to interference from automotive starters. In 1943 Reber detected radio emissions from the sun.

After his mother died in 1945 Reber accepted a position working for the National Institute of Standards in Washington D.C., but he soon grew frustrated with the growing atmosphere of McCarthyism in the nation's capital. In 1951 he moved to Hawaii, where he researched astronomy and atmospheric physics at an observatory at the top of Haleakala, a volcanic peak on Maui. In 1954 Reber moved to Tasmania, where he could exploit the ionospheric transparency for his studies.

Initially Reber had trouble getting his articles published. Reber was a pioneer in the field of radio astronomy and it took a while for his findings to be accepted. Today radio astronomy is a major field of study. Awards won by Reber include the Cresson Medal given by the Franklin Society and the Bruce Medal awarded by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Ohio State University.

Reber died on December 20, 2002 in Tasmania, Australia, two days before his 91st birthday.


Kellermann, Kenneth; "Grote Reber, 1911-2002"; Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society(2003)35:1472-3

Tyson, Anthony J., "Grote Reber"; Physics Today; August 2003

Grate Reber Wikipedia Entry

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