Lot 410: Wallis Barnes



2016-02-24 17:01:23

Lot 410: Wallis Barnes: (1887-1979) English Scientist & Inventor Of The Bouncing Bomb Used In Operation Chastise (The Dambusters Raid), 16Th May 1943. A Good, Lengthy War Date A.L.S., With His Initials B. N. W., Six Pages, Folio, White Hill House, Effingham, Surrey, 14Th & 15Th December 1944, To Leo D'Erlanger ('My Dear Leo'). Wallis Thanks His Correspondent For Their Letter And Constant Support And Encouragement, Remarking 'It Perhaps Does Not Occur To You How Intensely Valuable It Is To Have Someone Who Believes In One? None Of The Things We Have Ever Done Together Has Been A Certainty, Although They Look So Obvious & So Easy After The Event; And It Is During The Nerve Wracking Anticipatory Period That Your Support Is An Essential Stimulus To Face The Anxiety And Risk For A Damaging Failure'. The Scientist Further Writes 'It Seems Inevitable That One Cannot Do Anything Big & New Without Attracting Attention & Opposition. Scientific Experiments Ought Not To Have To Be Done Under Such A Fierce Light, But In Quiet, & Largely In Secret. Perhaps I Am Unduly Sensitive, But My Unfortunate Position Has Made The Risk Of Failure A Perfect Nightmare To Me During The Past 3 Or 4 Years. Why Should One Be Expected To Be Invariably Successful. Even The Greatest Of Painters Is Allowed To Work In The Privacy Of His Studio & It Is Only Post Hoc That The World Will Hail A Masterpiece. If He Doesn'T Like It He Can Paint It Out In A Few Minutes & No One The Wiser Except Himself. Scientific Research Is An Art, Depending On Inspiration, Just As Much As Any Of The Fine Arts Do. The Major Difference Between Us Is That We Alas, Having No Money Of Our Own Have To Spend Other People'S. To That Extent I Agree That We Must Be Under Some External Control; But To What Heights Might We Not Rise, If That Control Consisted Solely Of Say 3 Or 4 Friendly & Encouraging Persons; Who, Having Agreed On One'S Line Of Research, Merely Had To Some Public Body, Such As The Public Accounts Committee, Once A Year, That They Were Satisfied' And Continues To Reflect, 'The Pure Mathematician, And The Physicist Have An Immense Advantage, In That They Can Practise Their Art With Relatively Inexpensive Apparatus. All Scientists & All Real Engineers Must Be Practitioners Too; But Alas, Their 'Apparatus' Is Anything But Cheap. That Is Why All Professors Of Physics Or Mathematics, Or Astronomy….Are Always Brilliant & Distinguished; They Are Practitioners As Well As Teachers. What Would Become Of A Kubelik….If He Were Condemned Never To Play The Violin, But Only To Teach At The Royal Academy Of Music; Or Of A Sargent If He Must Never Paint A Single Portrait But Only Teach, At The Slade? But That Is Just What Our Professors Of Engineering Science Do, Because They Could Only Practise On So Large & So Expensive A Scale, That Under Our Present System They Can Never Practice At All; & So, As Far As Engineering Of All Kinds Is Concerned We Have Developed The Second Class Academic Hack; While The Men Who Might Do Brilliant Research Drift, Under The Intense Urge To Do Something, Into Industry, Where The One Thing They Are Not Allowed To Undertake Is Long Term, & Possibly Unprofitable, Research', Also Commenting 'The Royal Society, And The Royal Institution Find It Within Their Means To Appoint Men Who Have Distinguished Themselves As Practitioners In Physics Or Chemistry To Professorships, Which Are Entirely "Go As You Please"; Men Who Are Given The Freedom Of The World, To Do As They Please; But Only Because Their Most Expensive Research Is Really Very Cheap, & Can Be Done In Almost Any Well Equipped Laboratory'. Wallis Also Informs His Correspondent About A Current Project Concerning The Design Of Bridges, Made Possible By Light Alloy, Remarking 'And The Objection To Structures That Are Very Light In Relation To The Moving Loads That Roll Across Them, Is The Feeling Of Give, And Vibration, & The Consequential Sensation Of Springiness & Insecurity. But Why Should Not A Structure Be A Living Thing. You Would Not Expect For Instance An Athlete About To Perform Some Feat Of Strength, Always To Maintain Himself In That Attitude Of Braced Rigidity Which He Must Adopt As The Great Effort - Is Actually Put Forth. I Could Design A Small Bridge, Almost Without Any Research Whatever; Which When You Stepped Upon It, Actually Rose, Instead Of Sagging, Giving An Impression Of Strength & Uplift, However Slender & Light Its Members Might Be. By Extension I Should Be Able To Do The Same Thing For A Single Span, Over 2000 Feet Long. By Comparison, Go & Look At The Much Vaunted Modern Waterloo Bridge Which Replaced Rennie'S Real Masterpiece. And Weep!' Wallis Resumes His Letter The Following Day, Apologising For It Having Been Written 'A Propos De Bottes' So Far As He Can See And Concludes By Remarking 'My Paper Has Made No Progress, Altho' I Have Been Ruminating To Some Purpose'. Autograph Letters Of Wallis Are Rare, And Particularly So From This Date And With Interesting Content, Making The Present Example Very Desirable. One Slight Paperclip Rust Stain Only Very Slightly Affects One Word Of Text To The Final Page, And Not The Signature, Otherwise Vg Sir Gerard John Regis Leo D'Erlanger (1906-1962) Airline Company Director & Financier. Chairman Of Boac 1956-60. International Autograph Auctions' Autograph Auction featuring The David Smith Collection & The Collection of a Gentleman March 2016 Saturday, 5th March 2016 Estimate: £200 - 300
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