Monday, 4 July 2011

He also invented the petard.

This is Sir Robert Watson-Watt, who described himself in his autobiography as:

'a sixth rate mathematician, a second rate physicist, a second rate engineer, and a bit of a meteorologist, something of a journalist, a plausible salesman of ideas, interested in politics, liking to believe there is some poetry in my physics, some physics in my politics.'

He may have been a little modest there. Watson-Watt is generally credited with the invention of radar; and certainly with the system of detecting aircraft with it, and the chain of radar stations on the south coast of England, which is often cited as the reason the British won the Battle of Britain; which in turn is often cited as the turning point of the war. Imagine what he might have achieved if he'd been a fifth rate mathematician...

Anyway, I bring him to your attention today because later in life he was stopped for speeding by a policeman, using a radar gun. I think it's safe to say the irony was not lost on him.

by Robert Watson-Watt.

Pity Sir Robert Watson-Watt,
strange target of this radar plot
And thus, with others I can mention,
victim of his own invention.
His magical all-seeing eye
enabled cloud-bound planes to fly
but now by some ironic twist
it spots the speeding motorist
and bites, no doubt with legal wit,
the hand that once created it.
And so, all you courageous boffins
who may be nailing up your coffins,
(particularly those whose mission
is in the realm of nuclear fission)
pause and mull fate’s counter plot
and learn with us what’s Watson-Watt.


Idina said...

Brilliant! Love stories like this. There's way more to you than Cabin Pressure, though it was a shock to see you on 'Miranda'.

It sounded like Arthur was talking about pregnancy and placentas. Uck!

E.L. Wisty said...

Contrary to what people think, a petard is not a device for hoisting people into the air. It is in fact a bomb, and anyone thrown up into the air by his own bomb was said to be "hoist by his own petard".

Kaitebon said...

Now I know who to direct my anger at when a policeman takes exception to my lead foot! Haha!

(And I suspect, E.L. Wisty, that most of the people who actually use the phrase "to hoist with his own petard" do know what it means. It's certainly used [alluded to?] correctly here...)

Anonymous said...

Obviously a man with a delightfully wry sense of humour!

~theficklepickle (Blogger doesn't seem to like me any more.)

Tiddliwinksarecool said...

You have to wonder what his profile would be like on a dating website...

John Finnemore said...

Idina - Oh God, no! What a horrible thought. No, Arthur and Chris are very different round-faced-idiots-with-my-voice.

E.L.W. Yup. I know.

Kaitebon - Yeah! Though you should probably save some curses for Karl Friedrich Benz as well.

'Anonymous' - You can hardly blame Blogger for being fickle...

Tiddly Wink Enthusiast - You practically don't have to wonder! Here is another part of the same paragraph:

"...five-foot six, organically sound and functionally fortunate, if fat, after thirty years war of resistance to taking exercise."

Miss Pear said...

OI! You are not round-faced! I'm the definition of face-like-a-soup-spoon (with added blancmange) and you do not look like me. Anyone who does not look like me should feel utterly blessed by that fact. So. Yeah.

Loved this tale. I have a not-as-good, working-class version: my father was a cabbie for several years, and a driver who worked with the same firm was utterly, fastidiously, maniacally obsessed with the cleanliness and orderliness of his car. He formulated whopping great fines should anyone so much a drop a molecule of dirt inside his beloved cab. All this changed one evening - he ended up being monumentally sick in the back of someone else's cab and got stung with a fine even higher than he charged. Oops. Sheepish is not the word.

By the way, are we sure Watson-Watt wasn't a cat?

Tiddliwinksarecool said...

Sounds dreamy...and a bit like my husband.
Oh dear.

Buy cialis said...

So this guy invented the petard a long time ago... how curious!