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 1 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.

In 1946 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

If you have additional information or materials - please contact the Radar Trust
Papers & Links etc.
Royal Society - Elected Fellow in 1945 - for a biography -
go to: http://rsbm.royalsocietypublishing.org  with search words: Wilfrid Bennett Lewis
Wikipedia page:  biography Wilfrid Bennett Lewis  accessed Feb 2011
or try:  http://en.wikipedia.org/  with search words: Wilfrid Bennett Lewis 
Papers - Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, Kings College London
   go to website: http://kcl.ac.uk   searching with words: Liddell Hart Wilfrid Bennett Lewis
   Reference code:  GB 0099 KCLMA Lewis W B
Biography - Fawcett, Ruth (1994). Nuclear pursuits: the scientific biography of Wilfrid Bennet Lewis. McGill-Queens University Press.
Group in March 1942:  Management
Insight & innovation
Pulsed Doppler Radar.
Before the radar Plan Position Indicators had been developed (the classic map like radar display), operators had difficulty in distinguishing between radar reflections from ships and from aircraft.  It was WB Lewis who suggested synchronising the transmitted pulse with a reference oscillator that ran continuously.  Reflected signals could then be compared with the reference oscillator which would give faster beats corresponding to faster movement towards or away from the transmitter / receiver.  This could help to distinguish between slower moving ships and faster moving planes.   A prototype was built by Bill Penley and Martin Fishenden and tested at the clifftop site on St Aldhelm's Head.  This worked, and was probably the first pulsed doppler radar - the ancestor of the radar speed traps we are familiar with today.

copyright Purbeck Radar Museum Trust 2013  |  www.purbeckradar.org.uk  |  version 8f - 9 May 2015

Page last updated: 30 July 2011