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10 September 2001

British man first to patent radar

66 years since radar was patented by British inventor. Initially used for military intelligence purposes radar is now more widely used.

A British man from Brechin, Angus invented radar and patented it with the UK Patent Office 66 years ago on 17 September 1935. Originally created for military intelligence purposes, the technology is now widely used, even in our local supermarkets.

Robert Watson-Watt was the superintendent of the Radio Research Laboratory at Ditton Park, Berkshire when he was asked if he could find a way of using radio waves to destroy enemy aircraft. The mission proved impossible due to the amount of energy that was required but the request led Watson Watt to invent the first radar system.

Watson-Watt’s radar system allowed the air force to locate planes by bouncing radio rays off them and measuring the time and pitch of response. From the results, the direction and location of the plane could be calculated. Detecting planes proved vital in fighting off attacks from bombers and Watson-Watt was knighted in 1942 although, the patent was not published until 1947 to ensure secrecy.

Anniversary of radar

Since the patenting of Watson-Watt’s invention, radar has been adopted for a range of uses. Radar has been used to detect stationary objects that are buried underground and to create detailed topographic maps of the surface of planets. NASDA uses radar to map the earth and other planets and to track space debris. Police use radar to measure the speed of passing motorists. You can even see radar at work at many stores when it detects customers approaching automatic doors.

Patents can be viewed from this web site via the free esp@cenet database (Watson-Watt’s radar patent GB593017).

Last updated 31 May, 2005 top