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PROLOGUE

This tale is a chronicle of the life and times of a British immigrant to Canada, who went to school and university in the England of the 1940's and 50's, and then emigrated to Canada in 1957 to find work in fields related to science and engineering. The reason for putting it onto the internet, is for the diversion and entertainment of some of his old schoolmates and friends, and his erstwhile colleagues with whom he worked in several different careers. They are now in several countries and hopefully they will all find something in these reminiscences which will bring back memories of shared trials and tribulations - and the thrill of small victories. This saga was written between 1993 and 1995, and ends there. Updates are unlikely!

This is not a scholarly, well researched history of the period which it covers by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it intended to be. Literally thousands of these have been written from every conceivable perspective in the last forty years, both by writers who are old enough to remember what happened during that period and (inevitably) by some who are not. The events (national and international) which are recorded in this account, are only those which had some lasting impact on the author, whether as a child or an adult.

Much of the story includes descriptions of the scientific and technical fields and problems that the author has encountered during his career. No apology is made for this, because most of the wealth which has been created since the 1950's has come as a result of the application of science and engineering to improving the quality of life in almost every field of human endeavour that one cares to name. Examples include the development of body scanners, the use of lasers in corneal surgery and "keyhole" surgery (made possible by fibre optic probes) in the field of medicine; to the communications revolution with Fax machines, cellular telephones and search and rescue aided by transmitter buoys; to space exploration and the establishment of the ultimate satellite-based navigation aid known as the Global Positioning System (GPS). None of these advances or benefits were created by politicians, lawyers or business people, although most of them are always quick to take credit for having been catalysts in the financing or other support aspects. They are also usually the ones to profit from the commercial exploitation of such developments.

It is a continuing source of chagrin to the author that virtually no one outside the scientific and engineering community has the remotest idea who were the major contributors to key developments which have revolutionised our lives. Typical examples would be the laser, television, the transistor, the compact disc, and the magnetron. This last example was tossed in to underline the point, virtually no one knows what a magnetron is, let alone what it does. Most people would be very surprised to learn that it was developed in 1940 by two engineering physicists at the University of Birmingham, in a desperate effort to boost the range of the British coastal radar transmitters. In the event it was brilliantly successful, and it is probably true to say that it contributed as much as anything else to the eventual decision by Hitler to cut his losses on the air offensive against Britain and turn his attention to the Soviet Union. Had that not happened, Britain would almost certainly have been overrun by the Third Reich and there would have been very little the Americans could have done to turn the tide by the time they came into the war in December 1941. In other words the course of history would probably have been very different. That was not the end of it. Since that time the magnetron has become the energy source for - guess what, the microwave oven, the ubiquitous device that is used by literally hundreds of millions of people world wide. We remember the highly visible heroes of the second world war, but the inventors of the magnetron are accorded no place in history for an achievement which dwarfed that of most of the other names of their time that have since become legends.