Perry, Geoffrey E 1927 - 2000

English; British

(1927-2000), Teacher and satellite signals interpreter

Geoffrey E. Perry was born on August 4, 1927, in Braintree, Essex, and received a bachelor's degree from Reading University, where he studied physics. His interest in space was first stirred by a German V-2 rocket that landed near his home in Braintree during World War II. His interest was further piqued by a multinational scientific program called the International Geophysical Year in 1957, which involved much discussion of conditions in space. By the early 60's, he was monitoring the radio transmissions of telemetry data from Soviet satellites with amateur radio equipment.

Perry began teaching at Kettering Grammar School in the early 50's. Here, Perry and boys he had trained to interpret satellite signals from a simple radio receiver caused an international stir in 1966, when Perry noticed that Soviet satellites were in a different orbit than usual and were communicating to a new location on the ground. He concluded that the Soviet Union had begun using a third launching site, at Plesetsk in northwest Russia, whose existence was then secret.

The amateur monitoring program, which eventually outgrew the school and is now an international collaboration called the Kettering Group, went on to become one of the best sources of public information on Soviet satellites as they malfunctioned, fell out of the sky or simply went about their routine business.

In 1978, after a student pointed out irregularities in the motions of a satellite he had been assigned, Perry predicted the crash of a Soviet nuclear-powered satellite. It plummeted to the ground in Canada. Perry's retired from Kettering in 1984. He died on the 18th January 2000, near his home in Bude, Cornwall from a sudden heart attack, he was 72. He is survived by his wife, Jean; and by his daughter, Isabel Carmichael.