Jansky was the first public recognised person who brought to the
world's attention Radio Waves coming from the Milky Way that were
possible messages from "outer space" ( see picture below ) - Karl Jansky
1905 - 1950. He died at the early age of 44 and received little
recognition for his work during his lifetime.
His radio waves equipment
installed when he was working at Bell Labs was described as "Jansky's
Merry Go Round" as it was a round rotating space wave finder that
determined where the outer space waves were coming from.
Many years after his death he is regarded as a pioneer in this field of work.
His Rotating Platform has been re-constructed and built as Karl Jansky originally had built.
Jansky was a modest family man who was originally employed by Bell
Laboratories for the purpose of trying to reduce noise on transatlantic
began his job and discovered that there were three main reasons for
noise in space. The first two were noise from earth based sources such
as thunderstorms and general background static but he found a THIRD
source of noise that came from outer space.
(as it has happened many years later) found that this THIRD source of
noise was from the Milky Way and that it was concentrated at certain
points and in certain times only.
wanted to expand his research at Bell Labs but was knocked back and re
assigned to other jobs at Bell Labs. As this was now the early 1930's
the Depression was on and no one wanted to spend any money on this sort
of thing. So it all got left out. Karl had FOUR things working against
him. FIRST was his bad health. The SECOND was the Depression of the
1930's where no one wanted to spend money on anything unless it was a
rock solid guarantee. Research was a poor choice for funding in the
THIRD was the Bell Labs decision to end his research as it did not fit
in with their agenda given the hard economic times. And FOURTH was world
war 2. He was a bright person in the wrong time. Having said all that a
bright young man, Grote Reber, saw the work of Karl Jansky and decided
to follow it up. Grote came along after Karl with good luck. Grote built,
basically by himself, a Radio Telescope in his own backyard of his
house and continued the work of Karl, the work that Bell Labs should
have funded. This man did so much.
Karl Jansky's 360 Degree hand steered outer space radio wave receiver that he built to pick up signals from the Milky Way. He is seen in the picture here.
This was a world first trailblazing forerunner to todays modern radio telescopes that are around the world and listen into deep space.
At the time unfortunately it was overlooked by everyone and Karl was moved away from this project to another one and sadly the idea was dropped, only to be realised later what an amazing thing Karl had built, and, now there is a replica existing, and Karl has been recognised as the trailblazer he was.
Grote Reber 1911 - 2002
had good health and the ability and knowledge to continue the work of
By funding himself he not only was able to continue Karls
work, and avoid the bad economic times, but found out that if he moved
to Tasmania in Australia and built a Radio Telescope he would be in just
the right position to examine all the radio waves coming from outer
space. This was AFTER the second world war and the world was on a
reconstruction boom which Grote followed.
was a very smart well connected person. Highly respected and left a
legacy that is fantastic. He did a lot of good for what Karl had started
and worked hard not only to research Karl's work but to reconstruct
"Janskys merry go round" wave finding equipment. Lucent, who took over
from Bell Labs. have recognised Karl Jansky's legacy.
Remember though that Karl Jansky was the inspiration behind Grote Reber's work.
person who saw Karl Janskys works and saw inspiration was Professor
John Kraus who wrote a book on the subject of radio transmissions from
outer space, a book which has still today been regarded as standard
continued on working but he had "Brights Disease" - He had this since
he was young - It is a Kidney Disease that is nasty and does limit not
only your activity but your work ability.
Karl fought on and did what he could to support his family and keep himself going.
the time he had made notes on his work he was reaching his life's end -
at the age of 44 - the Depression and WW 11 had come and (just) gone
and now five years after the end of WW11 Karl Jansky died leaving behind
a legacy that others would pick up and carry.
Later many institutions would say " this man was a pacesetter - a
trailblazer " - and quite rightly Karl Jansky has been recognised as a
Many say he would have received a nobel prize if he had lived a full life.