Have you heard of John Bolton? Remember ‘The Dish’?


Radio Astronomer: John Bolton and a New Window on the Universe

Peter Robertson

Published by New South
RRP $59.99 in hardback  *  ISBN 9781742235455

With this book, it proved too much temptation to flip straight to the chapter on the role of the Parkes radio telescope in the first moon walk (Apollo 11) and the drama of that day, so charmingly – and as it turns out accurately – captured in the film ‘The Dish’.

In the chapter ‘One Small Step’, Robertson details the space race that developed in the late 1950s and the role large tracking dishes would play in the ambitious space missions of the 1960s.

It was down to Director John Bolton’s meticulous planning that, when the designated receiving station – Goldstone in the US – could not provide the quality pictures NASA and the world’s TV audience expected, Parkes was able to step in.

John Bolton (1922-93) was the leading Australian astronomer of his generation, although he was born in Sheffield and educated at Cambridge.

After wartime service in the Royal Navy, he joined the CSIRO Radiophysics Laboratory. His early work led to the birth of a new field – extragalactic radio astronomy.

This is a well-researched biography of a man of significant achievement but whose name is largely unknown outside astronomy circles.

But it is much more than a biography – it charts the development of a field of scientific enquiry from its infancy and the contribution made by one outstanding individual.

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