National Records of Scotland

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Sir Robert Watson-Watt (1892-1973)

Sir Robert Watson-Watt (1892-1973)

Developer of radar

Robert Watson-Watt's interest in radio waves began at University College, Dundee. He applied his knowledge as a meteorologist at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough during the First World War; to propose the use of cathode ray oscilloscopes in radio research; and at the Radio Research Station, Slough. In the late 1930s he led the team of scientists, engineers and service personnel which developed a system, and chain of radar stations, to detect aircraft by radio methods. This played a significant role in the Battle of Britain. He was knighted in 1942 and hyphenated his surname as Watson-Watt. He received many other honours during his lifetime, including the US medal for merit, and is commemorated by a statue in his birth-place.

Birth in 1892

Robert Alexander Watson Watt was born at 5:15 on 13 April 1892, the son of Patrick Watson Watt, joiner (master), and Mary Ann Small Matthew. The entry in the statutory register of births for the district of Brechin in the county of Angus (formerly Forfar) gives the place of birth as 5 Union Street.

Birth entry for Robert Watson-Watt

Birth entry for Robert Watson-Watt (20 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1892/275/86

1901 and 1911 censuses

In 1901 Robert A W Watt, 8, scholar was enumerated with his parents and two brothers at 5 Union Street. The census return for the district of Brechin gives his father's occupation as joiner and house factor working on his own account.

1901 census record for Robert Watson-Watt

1901 census record for Robert Watson-Watt (21 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1901/275/2, page 2

In 1911 Robert Alexander Watson Watt, 18, engineering student, was enumerated at the same address. The census return for the district of Brechin shows his brother, David Matthew Watt, sherriff officer, was head of household.

1911 census record for Robert Watson-Watt, part 1

1911 census record for Robert Watson-Watt, part 2

1911 census return for Robert Watson-Watt (40 and 25 KB jpegs)
National Records of Scotland, 1911/275/2, page 1

Death in 1973

Robert Alexander Watson Watt, scientist (retired), Knight of the Thistle, widower, aged 81, died on 5 December 1973. The entry in the statutory register of deaths for the district of Inverness records the names of his three spouses - Margaret Robertson, Jean Drew Smith and Katherine Jane Trefussis Forbes (National Records of Scotland, 1973/231/671).