The celebrity gallery - Robert Watson-Watt

Robert Watson-Watt Time of birth:
13.4.1892 05:15:00
Time zone: 0
Robert Watson-Watt (1892-1973) – a Scottish physicist who made a significant contribution to the development of the radar.

Interesting facts

Home-lover (The Black Sun, The White Moon)
Watson-Watt said: "Every week that passes is one per cent of the tune we are entitled to count our own". For him, as for the true scientist, the main theme, the main "tune" has always been science. In fact, he dedicated his entire life to it. Despite the fact that Robert Watson-Watt took an active business and social position, he was very fond of silence and solitude. Avoidant to some extent, he tried to spend more time at home working alone, than with people. The quiet home environment allowed the scientist to recover from the exposure to the public and to rest from the bustle of life, completely immersing in the world of his scientific researches. He was very heartfelt, sensitive and sweet for a narrow circle of close people. But for the most, he was a person, who is always ready to support. He could easily go to the middle of nowhere to help a colleague. However, he did not make friends easily.

The wise chief (The Black Mars, the White Moon, the White Jupiter)
Many countries tried to develop their own radar on the eve of the war, but the first breakthrough in this field was made by Watson-Watt. Professor Robert Brown Hanbury said: "Although he did not invent the radar in the literal sense, he was the first man who successfully applied it for an urgent and important task at the right time". Watson-Watt's ambitions to develop the radar were initially suppressed by many, including Winston Churchill, calling them "castles in the air". He and his fellow scientists were ignored and considered nothing more than the meteorologists from provincial universities. Nevertheless, they still persistently and consistently sought to achieve their dreams. Spurring the efforts of the colleagues on the way to progress, Robert Watson-Watt said: "Take the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late and the best never comes". By 1938 Watson-Watt and his team of engineers have already established a chain of radar stations. One member of the "team radar" recalls: “We were working under a master who understood the technicalities of the job and who gave us every encouragement… When things went wrong, as in the Air Exercises of September 1936 into which we were pushed by the Air Ministry before we had tested our apparatus fully, Watson-Watt had the enviable ability of being able to soothe the Air Marshals and explain to them why everything would be all right the next time. And it always was, although we sometimes thought that his promises came close to the category of "line-shooting".

The public person (The White Jupiter, the Black Mercury)
The scientist himself said about his temper: “I am objectionably silent and reserved in private conversations, because then I can never believe I have anything worth saying; objectionably fluent and talkative in public, because then I believe there is a lot that is worth saying again, that platitudes are worth repeating because they are true”. Quiet and laconic at home, Robert Watson-Watt became sociable in public and could be extremely persistent, proving his point of view.
Between 1958 and 1960 he took part in five conferences in Pugwash (Canada), which addressed issues of nuclear disarmament and the prevention of a third world war, as well as the social responsibility of scientists and their role in political decision-making. His speeches, containing metaphors, quotations and anecdotes from his own experiences, differed from the down-to-earth speeches of other partici-pants. Performing an integrating function, Watson-Watt contributed to the common goal during the discussions which preceded the development of the final statements for each conference.

The personal life (The White Venus)
Robert was quite loveful man and was married three times, but a change of the partner was a consequence of insurmountable obstacles, which did not depend on him. Being in Dundee, he met Margaret Robertson. She made an important contribution to Robert’s experiments with radio waves, using her skills of the jeweler in repairing his wireless device. Unfortunately, their marriage did not survive the war and collapsed. After the divorce, he married Jean Wilkinson, but death separated the couple. Watson-Watt was very initiative in love matters up until the vale of years. He proposed to 67-year-old Kathryn Trefusis Forbes when he was 72. They lived together until her death in 1971.

The wit (The White Moon, the White Saturn)
At the end of his life, Watson-Watt became the victim of his own invention. In Canada, he was stopped by a police officer who used the radar to detect the speeding. Scottish physicist responded to this saying: "If I knew the way you were going to use the radar, I would never discover it!" Later, Watson-Watt wrote an ironic poem called "Rough Justice". He mentioned in it, that his "magic all-seeing eye", designed to detect aircraft in the clouds, now ironically captures speeding drivers.

The modesty (The White Venus, the Black Mars, the White Saturn)
Watson-Watt called himself "the mathematician of the sixth and the physicist of the second class". Although he modestly named his invention as "a device", in recognition to his contribution to the discovery and development of the radar he was knighted in 1942. A small commemorative plaque on the spot of the first experiment of the radar in the English county of Northamptonshire was the only reminder about Watson-Watt until now. The Memorial Robert Watson-Watt’s Society in his hometown of Brechin needed eight years to raise the funds for the monument to a person about whom it possible to say: "he saved the country". The chairman of the Society, Stewart Hill stressed that the whole Britain lacks the monument to the whole team, which created the radar, apart from previously mentioned memorial plaque.