Monday, 19 August 2019

The Thermal Syndicate Ltd

I'm on holiday this week in Deal, Kent, where I have been coming with my partner and kids, my brother's family, and my parents for the past few years for a week-long holiday in August.  We stat at a house belonging to a friend of my parents who is also a descendant of William Thomson, Lord Kelvin.  There's a lot of interesting reading matter in the house.  This year I've started with a history of a company called The Thermal Syndicate Ltd., erstwhile makers of fused quartz ware which was used for, amongst other things, chemical apparatus. 

The book was written for the company's 1956 50th Jubilee, and is clearly a corporate exercise, with no author mentioned.  It is a fairly sober retelling of the company's history.  It's sort-of interesting to read about how the company was founded, with a combination of money and connections being the key features.  The scientific aspects of it were interesting -- not just the techniques developed to make the very high-temperature-resistant glass, but also the scientific culture of the time married with the commercial aspects.  

The sober account of the company contains what pass for a couple of anecdotes, including an "imagined conversation" in local (Newcastle) dialect of the speculation of what took place in the Wallsend factory, as in the attached picture, which reads
   'Whaat d'them blokes dee at Waalsend Laboratories?
    They analiise things for Thormal Synnicate.
    What d' the Synnicate myek?
    They myek things for Waalsend Laboratories t' analiise!'

Aside from that, I also enjoyed some of the pictures of industrialists of Edwardian industrialists, which I have added at the top of this post.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Happy 100th Birthday Margaret Burbridge!

Today, 12th August 2019, is the 100th birthday of Margaret Burbridge.  She is a British-American astrophysicist who is jointly responsible for the idea that stars are giant nuclear fusion reactors.  This started the whole field of nuclear astrophysics, and is canonical enough to be taught to undergraduates.  In fact, we (at Surrey) have a degree programme called Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics, which we wouldn't have if not for Prof (emeritus) Burbridge.  Happy Birthday!

The picture is from the Wikipedia article about her, and shows her in 1976 winning a Woman of the Year award.