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A History of Geophysics At Cambridge, England – Book Review

September 9th, 2010 · No Comments · Books, OPINION, PEOPLE, Reviews

Last but not least I am bound to be nostalgic about that last chapter in Carol’s book which I witnessed at “Mad Rise” as the last PhD student of Sir Edward Bullard. Teddy, a successor of Sir Gerald’s, remained the last towering Head o the Department of Geophysics before it was diluted with Geology and Mineralogy to become the current Department of Earth Sciences. Teddy was always unconventional and enthusiastic about new ideas and steeled my resolve in querying the infallibility of Plate Tectonics dictum, such as the “rigidity” of lihospheric Plates in Persia, Tibet and Sinkiang – hence the birth, at Mad Rise, during the early 1970s, of the revolutionary concept of “non-rigid plates”, or “Buffer Plates”: four decades on this new concept gained international acceptance from an otherwise a very conservative and sometimes begrudging profession. Such iconoclastic exercise was not without its dangers in the ruthless rat race of the late 1960s – early 1970s and the chaps from Mad Rise know it too well. Carol Williams apologizes to her contemporaries for leaving out some of their seminal contribution and one must be forgiving and accept her plea in good faith, given the fact that one is compensated by huge helpings about some greats. Even Molly Wisdom is not forgotten: here the larger-than-life persona who, for twenty four years was a Departmental secretary, is afforded not less than seven entries, only to be dispatched variously as a “part-time typist”, a “former opera singer” (with a “shrill voice”…), “chairing” the Common Room table during coffee breaks… It seems as if Molly’s shrewd judgment of human frailties was too close for comfort to some who considered the Department as their sole preserve.
Dan P. Mckenzie, another of Bullard’s students, has generously produced the Preface, the Postface, his raft of scientific papers, reminiscences, his youthful portrait, and more, leaving poor Sir Isaac Newton with the consolation prize of “second best”.

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