A HUNDRED years ago today we heard for the first time the Greenwich ‘pips’. But how many realise they have a strong Bradford connection?

Every day we hear the Greenwich ‘pips’, or time signals - ‘beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep’ on the five seconds leading to the hour and on the hour itself.

The first five pips each last a tenth of a second, while the final pip lasts half a second. The start of the final pip indicates the moment when the hour changes.

The pips are so familiar on the radio that you can easily believe they have always existed, but before February 5, 1924 they had not.

They are the legacy of Sir Frank Dyson (1868-1939), the celebrated astronomer educated at Bradford Grammar School where he was a local scholarship boy.

By 1924 he was the Astronomer Royal, based at the famous Greenwich Observatory, which had always been involved in time measurement.

After the First World War, Dyson was approached by John Reith, the first Director-General of the BBC, who suggested to him that the Observatory should provide time signals to the public via the broadcaster.

The idea of the Greenwich Time Signal - the world standard for time - was born.

Frank Dyson was born in Leicestershire. When he was very young, he moved with his family to West Yorkshire.

He attended Bradford Grammar School in the early years of the school’s renaissance under the leadership of the Rev WH Keeling, appointed in 1872 to rescue it. A headmaster for 44 years, Keeling turned Bradford Grammar School into one of the best schools in the country.

Dyson was the beneficiary of a new Governors’ scholarship, worth £16 per annum, which was introduced for sons of parents who couldn’t afford the fees (Dyson’s father was a Baptist Minister).

From the grammar school, Dyson won a scholarship to Cambridge University, where he studied mathematics and astronomy. He was the archetypal scholarship boy made good.

After a first-class degree with the second-highest marks, he became a fellow at Trinity College in 1891.

In 1894 he was appointed Senior Assistant at Greenwich Observatory. He made an important contribution to the International Astrographic Catalogue - a worldwide project involving photography of specified regions of the sky, followed by measurement of positions of stars recorded.

In 1905 he moved to Edinburgh and was made Astronomer Royal for Scotland and Regius Professor of Astronomy at the university.

Five years later he returned to Greenwich, as the ninth Astronomer Royal, and the only one to have held both Scottish and UK posts.

From 1900 when he observed the phenomenon from Portugal, Dyson became interested in observing solar eclipses and was involved in six such expeditions.

He realised that Einstein’s recently propounded theory of relativity could be subjected to an observational test at the 1919 solar eclipse.

This predicted that stars seen near the eclipsed sun would appear to be shifted in position by a small, but measurable, amount.

Dyson demonstrated that the data supported Einstein’s predictions - a major turning point in scientific thought.

Today he is remembered for the very different legacy of the Greenwich pips.

* Frank Dyson is featured in Martin Greenwood’s book Every Day Bradford - which provides stories of Bradford past and present for each day of the year - along with two other Bradford astronomers: Abraham Sharp (also educated at Bradford Grammar School) who had a lunar crater named after him, and Sir Fred Hoyle from Gilstead, who went to Bingley Grammar School and became the world’s leading astrophysicist. He was most famously involved in the debate about the origins of the universe, framed by two opposing theories - ‘big bang’ or ‘steady-state’.

* Every Day Bradford is available from Amazon and the Great British Bookshop.