Calvert, Edward Spence (1902–91) aviation research scientist, was born 5 March 1902 in Drummacurry, Portadown, Co. Armagh, the son of William John Calvert, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth (née Spence). An excellent student, he won a scholarship in 1918 to the Royal College of Science in Dublin. On leaving Dublin he gained invaluable practical experience as an apprentice with Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester. After serving his time he went to work as a research scientist for the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough in 1928.
During the second world war he contributed significantly to the technological developments of combat aviation. He was involved in the design of durable fixed gun sights, and designed the spotlights which enabled the Lancaster Bombers of 617 squadron to attack the Ruhr dams in 1943 in one of Bomber Command’s most famous air raids.
Many important innovations in the sphere of aviation are attributed to Calvert. Most notably he developed, with John Sparke, the ‘Calvert line-and-bar’ visual runway approach system. After extensive research and testing in a Californian airfield, the system was installed and employed to great effect during the Berlin airlift in 1948. This approach lighting system continued to be used, with some modifications, in many airports. Calvert was awarded an OBE for his work and also became the first non-American to win the Monsanto Aviation Safety Award in 1980.
Calvert retired as head of the illumination section at Farnborough in 1967, and died 16 March 1991.