Wilfrid Bennett ‘WB’ Lewis
was a research fellow at the Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge University
from 1930 to 1939 working on particle physics with John
Cockcroft. Early in 1939 Watson-Watt
persuaded Cockcroft to release Lewis to join the RDF team (Radio Direction
Finding later 'radar') at Bawdsey to manage the research programme for AP
'Jimmy' Rowe. At the outbreak of war he moved with the research
station - first to Dundee and then to Worth Matravers.
Lewis was an
exceedingly competent scientist and would visit the research teams for
detailed discussions about their research programmes. He was very good
at suggesting effective ways for the research teams to progress.
In around August 1940, it was Lewis who proposed the idea for a doppler radar to help distinguish
between ships (slow) and planes (fast) moving targets at the clifftop on St
Aldhelms head in what was probably the first pulsed doppler radar (see
'innovation' at bottom
of this page).
In 1940 he also persuaded Rowe, the superintendent of the establishment, to
assign the high calibre scientists who were arriving to research into high
frequency radars. This work proceeded 'under wraps' as it was against instructions from headquarters to
focus on 1½ metre radars. This decision paid off and led to the development of centimetric
radar spurred on by the invention of the cavity magnetron.
At the end of the war Lewis briefly took over from Rowe as
chief superintendent of TRE. He tried to get
approval to move the establishment from Malvern (where it
then was) to a site near a major university such as
Oxford. His idea was to create a centre for
electronics research close to an academic centre, but this
idea came to nothing.
He also thought that the future of
electronics research lay in better understanding of materials and their
properties - which led him to start the Physics department at TRE. This
idea proved well founded and resulted in the development of liquid crystals,
semiconductor infra red detectors and Geoffrey
Dummer's pioneering proposal for the development of integrated circuits.
WB Lewis went to Canada to lead the Canadian nuclear power programme in Chalk
River, Ontario - and his success there is well documented in his biography
(see below) and elsewhere.
Wilfrid Bennett ‘WB’ Lewis CBE FRS
24 June 1908 - 10 Jan 1987