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Bouncing ideas October 14, 2008

Posted by supersonicswan in Swan Lake.
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A third-rate mathematics student knows more about nature and its laws than did Pascal or Descartes. Is he capable of the same agility of thought?” (A. de Saint-Exupery)

People tend to lead lives deprived of meaning, what doesn’t disturb them in thinking themselves the earth. Very rarely will you come across a personality whose life story is simply inspiring – they not only know for the sake of knowledge but are also skilled enough to implement that knowledge in life. Due to their insightfulness they seem to be way ahead of their times.

One of such persons is (although should be ‘was’) George Edwards OM, one of the most important players in British post-war aeronautical industry. The position he achieved was owed not only to his technical skills but also managerial acumen and unbelievable forsight. Help yourselves to a few examples:

In September 1939, Hitler’s Germany widely implemented anti-shipping magnetic mines that were laid down across the Thames Estuary. Having in mind a chilrens’ roundabout, Edwards constructed a 48ft-diameter aluminium ring encasing an electromagnetic coil and woul be fitted around  a Wellington bomber and attached to its bottom. Current of 500V, sufficient to detonate the bombs, would be produced by a fuselage-housed generator and then supplied to the ring.

Although it was Barnes Wallis to invent the brilliant concept of bouncing bombs, Edwards facilitated its development. As a cricket lover he knew well about the properties of a spinning ball and that back-spin, when successfully applied, enable the ball to skid and bounce higher than normal on contact with the surface.

And below the Dumbuster raid by Avro Lancaster of 617 Sqn. RAF depicted. In May 1943 the hydroelectric dams in the Ruhr valley were destroyed.

After the war Edwards worked on several important projects such as Viscount, V1000/V7 (project of a military tanker and civilian airliner derieved from thereof that would have been able to cross the Atlantic in one hop long before the B707 was was even conceptualised; later scrapped what Edwards condemned as “one of the greatest technical and economic blunders of our times”), BAC One-Eleven twinjet and Concorde.

Also, he had a good nose for civil servants calling them “too fickle and short-sighted to be trusted to support costly, high technology products”.

Uff… The authorised biography by Robert Gardner (“From Bouncing Bombs to Concorde”) is a page-turner and I highly recommend it to anyone in need of inspiration.