Memoirs of a Boffin

Chapter 11: International

Early in my time in the PCO, I had become more and more interested in improving Canada’s participation in international science and technology and, particularly in the relevant activities of intergovernmental bodies such as OECD, NATO and the Commonwealth. In 1966, I had started to represent Canada on the Committee for Scientific and Technical Policy of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris. I found it most rewarding, largely because of the quality of my colleagues on the Committee and the presence of Alexander King, Director of Scientific and Educational Affairs and Secretary of the Committee, and Jacques Spaey of Belgium, who was the Chairman at that time. This was an exciting time when all aspects of science policy were being discussed and written about. It was the time of the Frascati Manual, which gave some sort of international uniformity to the definitions of science and technology; of the Harvey Brooks report on science in government and of the Piganiol report on scientific and technical information, all of which were classics in their time.

Pierre Piganiol was, at the time Délégué Générale de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris – effectively the Minister of Science in the French Government. He is one of the most modest, cultured and wholly delightful men I have ever met. I had the privilege of working with him on the Piganiol Report on Scientific and Technical Information policies and visiting his home. Since then we have only bumped into each other in meeting rooms, elevators and hotel foyers. But he always behaves as if we were continuing a conversation we had just left off – even after an interval of years.

Indeed I found that among the most rewarding aspects of the ten years or so I spent commuting across the Atlantic to international meetings were the deep and lasting friendships that I made.

The Chairman of the OECD Committee, Dr. Jacques Spaey was one of them. We met often in Paris or Brussels during the time I was Vice-Chairman. The other Vice-Chairman was Hugo Thiemann, Director of the Batelle Institute in Geneva and, of course, Alexander King was always there as Director-General of Scientific Affairs of OECD – a post he had held since before OECD acquired that name. I used to fly over for executive meetings as well as for the plenary sessions several times a year and we all became good friends.

The OECD headquarters and meeting rooms were located in the Chateau de la Muette in the 16th Arrondissement. Over the years it became almost as familiar as my own home.

The Chateau de la Muette

Jacques Spaey was of the old school. He was a great friend of Belgian Prime Minister Lefèvre and was his personal physician and scientific adviser. He headed the Sécretariat de Programmation et Planification Scientifique (SPPS) as a part of the Prime Minister’s Office. In some ways it was a model for the Science Secretariat in Canada – which could have been continued, with benefit to all, if the experiment with Ministries of State had not eventually cancelled out the original initiative.

I got to know Spaey very well and was often invited to dine with the Spaeys and their friends the Lefèvres at the Spaey home in Brussels. The erudite Belgian Prime Minister was a classics scholar and it taxed all my ability in French to participate in these intricate dinner discussions at the Spaeys. I recall one hilarious evening there. Spaey’s son, much to the disgust of his father and Lefèvre, was a young man with revolutionary views, albeit not very well thought out. Prime Minister Lefèvre decided at that dinner that he had enough of the young man’s brashness. He proceeded to take him apart in a systematic but highly sophisticated manner until the voluble revolutionary was absolutely (and thankfully) speechless.

Spaey was very reserved and, while highly respected by his colleagues, was hardly ‘hail fellow, well met’ to them. I remember his reserve breaking down only once. We had invited him to dinner at home on a very rare visit to Ottawa. Conversation before dinner was very stiff. He sat down at the table. I poured the wine. He lifted his glass and took a very suspicious sniff, then a sip – and heaved an audible sigh of relief. Rudely I said, “Have they (the Canadian Government) been giving you Canadian wine?” He looked a trifle embarrassed, then laughed and said: “Bien oui, mais quand je désire le jus de fruits, je commande le jus de fruits.” After that the conviviality increased and he ended the evening sitting at our piano playing hymns and singing them at the top of his voice. OECD had never seen him like this.

Spaey died at the age of 65 under rather dramatic circumstances. He had an operation to remove his gall-bladder, but did not make a very rapid or effective recovery from the operation. I know both Spaey and Lefèvre began to suspect a fault in the surgery. On a trip to Paris, Spaey became very ill. By the time he was flown back to Brussels his condition was critical. The Prime Minister heard of this and immediately drove over to the hospital, the one where Spaey had originally had his operation, transferred him by ambulance to another hospital and had his own surgeon operate in the middle of the night. Spaey recovered, but only for a few years until the jaundice again caught up with him.

The Belgian SPPS, which Spaey headed, was a remarkable, powerful organization. It was housed, appropriately, in a building on the Rue de la Science, just off the Rue de la Loi, in Brussels. It was created when Lefèvre was Prime Minister, as part of the Prime Minister’s Office. When Lefèvre retired, the new Prime Minister asked him if he would become his Minister of Science. Lefèvre replied, “Yes, on one condition, that you do not give me a department, you leave SPPS where it is [in the PMO] and let me use it as if it were my own.” That was typical of Lefèvre’s wisdom. He knew that a Minister of Science, with a small department would be without power or influence. However if his staff remained within the PMO, then he would be de facto Deputy Prime Minister for Science. Science policy is all-pervading and belongs at the centre of Government. Lefèvre knew what it may take Canada a quarter of a century to find out, that you can’t redefine the centre by creating ineffectual Ministries of State. Departmental bureaucracies in the name of science have no place in government.

Before and during these trips abroad I was greatly helped by the most effective, cheerful and loyal assistance of John Bradley, who became a close friend and ally. John has that rare genius for organization that makes problems of travel, accommodation, briefing papers and meeting rooms seem trivial. Our association was to continue for many years during the creation and operation of the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome.

In the late ’60s, I also became a Member of the NATO Science Committee, which met regularly in Brussels. My fellow members included two Nobel Prize winners, Isidore Rabi of the USA and Louis Néel of France. Rabi had spent a year at TRE in Malvern at the time the MIT Radiation Lab was being formed so we often reminisced about mutual acquaintances. He was very impatient with bureaucratic turgidity and diplomatic caution and his own US Delegation always seemed apprehensive about what he would do next. In other words, he was one of the more valuable Members of the Committee. He became a good and entertaining friend. Another leading member of the Committee was Eduard Pestel, a Hannover Professor, a member of the Volkswagen Foundation and later Minister of Science and Education in the Land of Lower Saxony. I was going to see a good deal of Eduard during the next few years in connection with both the NATO Science Committee and the Club of Rome.

Eduard Pestel and I were asked to rewrite the terms of reference of the NATO Science Committee. We did most of it during several evening visits to the famous Vincent’s restaurant on the rue des Bouchers in Brussels. I always used to stay at the Palace Hotel in the Place Rogier. My visits were so frequent that, when I took my wife and daughter there for a couple of days, during a European holiday, they gave us the Royal Suite, with its huge scarlet-lined double doors and antique furniture. The price posted discreetly in the wardrobe was astronomical and I thought it the acme of extravagance. But, when we checked out, the manager gave a little smile and presented me with a bill for a regular double room. The Palace Hotel in Brussels and the Hotel Alexander on the Avenue Victor Hugo in Paris were my homes away from home for many years.

I recall seeing Jacques Brel in “l’Homme de la Mancha” at the Théâtre Royale de la Monnaie (the opera house next door to the Bourse) in Brussels, about the time I was undergoing total immersion in French. I struggled to comprehend it for about five minutes, then absent-mindedly became absorbed in the plot. At the first intermission I suddenly realized that I had become completely engrossed. But I couldn’t believe it had been in French because I had understood it without conscious effort. This was a major transition from trying to understand every word, which is unnatural in any language, to digesting the meaning of the phrases without any conscious effort to translate them. After that experience I found that I no longer needed to listen to the simultaneous translation at the Committee tables of NATO and OECD where French and English are the only official languages. Learning a language has something in common with learning to ride a bicycle: if you have to think about it all the time you fall off!

Having been brought up under conditions where every penny counted, I have always been uncomfortable spending money unnecessarily – even the Government’s money. I am sure my frugal expense accounts infuriated my colleagues. Consequently, on these trips abroad, I was always seeking out small, cheap, but good restaurants, particularly in Paris, Brussels and Vienna, which I visited so often. Across from the Palace Hotel, in the Place Rogier, was the Hotel Monico. I would arrive from Canada Sunday morning, check in at the Palace Hotel, then go to the Hotel Monico for lunch. When I first went there, a four course lunch cost under three dollars. It consisted (for example) of a heated tureen of soup containing several helpings, a large plate of mussels, pepper steak and french fries, dessert and a café filtre. There were six choices for each course. Halfway through the meal the waiter would whip away your plate, sweep off the cooling fries and replace them with a piping hot batch. A slow eater might have this happen two or three times before he finished his steak.

The restaurant of the Hotel Monico was a meeting place for Flemish families at Sunday dinner and I felt honored to be welcomed by the Patron as a friend, in spite of being a foreigner. I remember arriving one Sunday after an interval of about six months since my last visit. A waiter showed me to my favourite corner table. The Patron appeared and caught sight of me as he was escorting a Flemish family to their table. Over his shoulder, as he passed he shouted, in French, “You know my daughter’s going to school in Canada now,” as if we were just continuing an interrupted conversation. This sort of familiar hospitality gave me a very warm feeling, especially at the end of a long transatlantic flight. The last time I was in Brussels I saw that the Hotel Monico had been demolished to make way for another high-rise on the Place Rogier. Sic transit gloria...

Similarly, in Paris, I had my favourite cheap but good restaurants. At the Restaurant des Beaux Arts on the rue Bonaparte in the late ’60s you could get a 4-course dinner with trout grilled on their huge open grill for 17.50 ff ($3.50) including wine. The house wine at that time was cheaper by volume than mineral water. I took a rookie visitor from Canada there one evening and he started to make a great fuss because the waitress had brought him a half-litre of wine instead of a quarter-litre. I pointed out to him that the difference between the two, according to the menu was only 10 cents. Another restaurant, Le Casque, further down the street had a 4-course meal including wine for only 12.50 ff.

Over the years I have continued to derive pleasure from finding cheap but good restaurants in Paris. As recently as 1988 I discovered an excellent Chinese restaurant in Passy with a prix fixe menu, including a half bottle of a respectable wine at 55 ff ($10).

During the late ’60s I also became a Member of the Commonwealth Science Committee and attended many meetings in London. So I was able not only to indulge my love for opera in Paris, Brussels and, ultimately Vienna and Milan, but get to a London theatre production now and then.

Signs on the side wall of La Scala Milan

On one of our trips to Belgium I was invited to visit an arteriosclerosis institute in Bruges. The Director, Dr. Peeters, was a close friend of Jacques Spaey and Prime Minister Lefèvre. They had been wartime underground leaders, which had forged unbreakable ties between them and made them heroes in the public eye.

My wife Nesta and I arrived in Bruges by car. We had some difficulty in recognizing the house from the address we had been given, because it seemed to be one of a row of small houses in a terrace by the canal. Tentatively we rang the door bell. After quite a pause, the door opened to reveal a small female child who said nothing but beckoned us to follow. So we followed her down a long hall along which we were surprised to see what we assumed to be reproductions of Andy Warhol sculptures. We turned a corner and she waved us into a very large living room with huge picture windows overlooking immaculate lawns and gardens. We were greeted warmly by Dr. Peeters and his wife. Already laid out was a variety of Scandinavian delicacies they had just brought back from a visit to Sweden. On the sideboard were several bottles of vintage claret, which Peeters proceeded to serve. It was a very pleasant environment and we talked a good deal. We asked him about the Andy Warhols but, by this time we had realized that they, like everything in the house, including our host, were originals.

We learned what was now obvious that the house was a set of converted terrace houses and the modest, unchanged facade had been left in place deliberately. We discovered that a huge patio roof was concealed above the ceiling of the living room and would slide out to cover the patio at the touch of a button. In view of the Belgian weather, this was probably quite essential.

Having talked for a couple of hours, Peeters suggested a walk to show us Bruges before lunch. The canal was a little unsavoury, even then, but the city itself was fascinating, especially as Peeters was an acknowledged expert on the history of Bruges.

We were reluctant to interrupt the tour for lunch. But, in the event, it was worth it. When we returned to the house there was a delicious smell of cooking. It came from a small grill-room off the living room which was equipped with a bank of vertical infra-red heaters. On spits rotating before these heaters were about 20 chickens, being continually basted and draped with fresh tarragon by one of the Peeters’ sons. Following the chicken there were baskets of fresh strawberries – and you have never tasted a strawberry until you savour the best of Belgium’s pride. In the course of this feast, we managed to get through several chickens, the best part of a case of vintage claret and a few large boxes of strawberries. Finally Peeters ordered Turkish coffee to be brought in from a restaurant “across the road”. Because of the lavish hospitality, the excellence of the food and the delightful company of this great man and his wife, this was one of the most memorable visits of our lives.

After lunch, our host took us to a church nearby and opened the vaults to show us the priceless treasures of tapestries and costumes woven with solid gold – treasures which very rarely see the light of day. By the time we arrived back to the Palace Hotel in Brussels we were agreeably exhausted.

Having established science counsellors in some capitals, we became involved in developing agreements on the exchange of science and technology with some other countries. These agreements were also used as an entrée for Canadian businessmen to seek sales or cooperative projects, so they were made in collaboration with the Department of Industry Trade and Commerce. Jean-Luc Pépin was Minister at the time and Jake Warren was the Deputy Minister.

On one occasion, in January 1971, we all went to Moscow to establish just such an agreement. It was my first experience of the Soviet Union. We stayed at the Intourist Hotel, near Red Square. We were allocated Intourist guides; mine was a pint-sized, attractive and capable female called Irina.

The room in the Hotel was not bad at all. There was a perforated grill all around the wall, just below the ceiling and there were the usual jokes about bugging. The bathroom was OK and there was a plug in the bathtub. The soap was minute and terrible. A very large bovine female looked after the room and almost became a personal valet after I had presented her with a bar of Imperial Leather soap, a few bars of which I had wisely included in my baggage. She laundered my shirts and ironed them in the room.

Each floor had a desk near the elevators, occupied by a dragon in female form. It was clear that one’s arrivals and departures were noted and reported to “Central Control” – especially as she held the keys.

The elevator in the Intourist Hotel seemed to be inhibited until the weight on the floor signaled that it was at least half full. One could sometimes defeat it when alone by jumping high in the air and descending hard on the floor. The foyer was spacious, if sparsely furnished and contained Intourist booths for booking theatres and travel.

I saw “Swan Lake” at the Bolshoi Theatre as part of the official visit. The following morning Irina asked me how I had enjoyed the ballet. I said I enjoyed it very much and wondered if she could get me a ticket for “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Kremlin Palace of Congress the following day. Irina was immediately suspicious. “How did you know it was on?” she asked. “It was announced on the back of the Bolshoi programme,” I said. “But that was in Russian. You told me you didn’t know Russian.” I tried to explain that I knew English, French and the Greek alphabet and, between the three of them it is not at all difficult to decypher a theatre announcement in Russian. I don’t think she ever believed me, but I got the tickets anyway.

The Bolshoi Theatre was a traditional auditorium – lots of red plush and actual high-backed chairs in the Orchestra Stalls. The Kremlin auditorium was something else. It holds about six thousand people. The locals come straight from work to the ballet and gorge themselves at the very long intermissions, either brown-bagging it or, more often buying their food in the enormous combination of restaurant, cafeteria and delicatessen upstairs. To reach this place from the auditorium involves two (or is it three?) flights of elevators. I remember it as approximately the size of a football field, with stalls of goodies practically all over the room and crowds of people looking them over and buying their choice.

It had been arranged that the Minister, Jean-Luc Pépin, his wife and his Deputy Minister, Jake Warren, would go to Leningrad to visit the Svetlana electronics plant and do a bit of sightseeing. At the last moment he asked me if I would like to join them. Would I! So we left on the night train from Moscow to Leningrad. Just after I boarded, I was standing in the corridor when a familiar face appeared at the door. It was a former Soviet Science Counsellor I had met at official functions in Ottawa, but who had been posted back to the Soviet Union. He spoke perfect English and always put on a hail-fellow-well-met act. We had always suspected that he belonged to the KGB. Once, in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa the US Science Attaché and I joined him in the middle of a reception and he put his arms round our shoulders saying “What a group – a bloody imperialist, a bloody capitalist and a bloody communist”.

I had not seen his name on the list of the Soviet party for Leningrad so I greeted him with, “Hi – I didn’t know you were coming to Leningrad.” He responded with, “Well, you were only put on the list at the last moment weren’t you?” He had been included to cover me and made no bones about it.

Leningrad was not nearly as oppressive as Moscow. Security was less obtrusive and we were able to get around and see some of the sights. The Hotel was just opposite the Church and we were fascinated by the huge Foucault’s Pendulum hanging from the dome and sweeping about a thirty-foot calibrated circle, which was roped off to prevent an accidental nudge from the weighty pendulum bob as it swung in your direction.

We had a prolonged official visit to the Hermitage. This huge museum in the Winter Palace is quite overwhelming. I met a Russian student who told me he had taken three months holiday in Leningrad to study the museum. He had already been there every morning for six weeks and reckoned he had covered about 10% of it. We had the Minister’s Intourist guide with us but she had to give pride of place to the Hermitage guides in each department. It was evident everywhere that employees fiercely defend the territory of their particular job, no matter who tries to encroach upon it. This was made very clear by an embarrassing incident. The Hermitage guide to the Old Masters was describing them at length when the Soviet Education Minister (who was Mr. Pépin’s host for the visit) took her aside and asked her quietly to hurry things up. She flung herself away from him and, in front of the whole party told him, “You look after your business and I’ll look after mine!” He didn’t seem to have an answer – at the time.

We also went to the Circus. Half the show was a superb one-ring circus. The other half an impressive magic show – a show I saw again a few years later in Paris.

The trip to Leningrad included a visit to the Svetlana electronics plant there (indeed that was the excuse for the trip). We made a tour of the plant, in which we saw the production of some elementary transistors. A production quota for the day was displayed for all the workers to see. Beside it was a digital display, in large figures, of the real-time production count, which grew steadily as we watched. The workers received a bonus which depended on the amount by which the day’s production exceeded the quota.

The President of the Company was proud of the fact that he was “independent” and did not report to “the bureaucracy”. He put on a remarkable luncheon for us. The table, set for about 30 people, was spectacular. There were huge piles of sliced black bread at each place. This was to be eaten with the many varieties of cold meat, fish, caviar, etc that were there in profusion. There was red wine and a running supply of vodka for the more than 20 toasts that were drunk during the meal. It seemed to me that Russians would toast anything to be able to knock back another vodka.

When, in our innocence, we were full to bursting, waiters appeared with large plates of hot cooked meat and vegetables for each diner. The meal had been going for more than an hour by this time. It was three hours before we left that table – stuffed to the eyeballs.

Back in Moscow I asked to visit the President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Irina was not on duty that day, so I was accompanied in the taxi by an Intourist guide named Konstantin. He was a string-bean of a pimply youth and as earnest as they come. He spouted communist propaganda for the first half of the taxi ride until I said, “Look here, Konstantin, I don’t go much for this political stuff – I’m just a scientist.” Konstantin, bless him, looked me right in the eye and said “That’s what you say”. He really believed in his Communist propaganda. I think he was the only one of our guides who did. Irina made it as clear as she could, without actually saying so that she despised the propaganda. She was vivacious and used lots of expressive hand movements when she was enthusiastic about something, which was most of the time. But, every now and then she would deliver a paragraph of Soviet propaganda. But she would do it with an absolutely straight face in a droning monotone which was as unlike her normal delivery as it was possible to get.

Irina had a great sense of humour. One day I decided to go shopping. I crept out of the Hotel behind the back of the ‘dragon’ on my floor walked across Red Square and explored the streets around it. I took some street pictures with my Minox B “spy” camera and ended up in the Beriowska shop in the Hotel Ruskia. The Beriowska shops only take Western currency and I bought a fine decanter and six liqueur glasses there for about $11. I returned to my room, without being seen and changed for the evening. Down in the foyer I met Irina who greeted me with a self-satisfied grin and asked, “Did you enjoy your shopping?”

Tsar bell in the Kremlin

During the visit we were invited to tour the Kremlin, including the vaults of priceless treasures – from exquisite sets of china and glass to an extensive collection of ceremonial coaches with the coachwork painted by masters. I was impressed by the size of the largest bell in the world, which broke during casting and was never rung.

On the last day I was scheduled to leave the Hotel at about six a.m. to catch an early Aeroflot flight to Copenhagen where I would get the flight to Montreal. The only other person in the Foyer was a little man who was propping up a marble pillar at the other end. When I arrived at the airport in the official car I had a bit of passport trouble which delayed me about ten minutes (during which time I wondered whether I would ever get my passport back). While I was waiting I noticed a little man propping up a pillar at the other end of the concourse. It was the man from the hotel. Coincidence? I wonder.

The Intourist flight to Copenhagen was, to say the least, not what I was used to. The jet, which went like a bat out of hell, driven as if by a frustrated fighter pilot, had tip-up lightweight basket-weave seats as well as, believe it or not, tip-down strapontons to fill the aisle, like a French airport bus. They served apples and cheese from a basket during the flight. I was rather glad to be back on the ground at the end of it. It was a memorable trip but left me with no great desire to emigrate to the Soviet Union.

Another country we visited with regard to agreements on science and technology was West Germany. I recall going to Bonn with Andy Kniewasser in March 1971 for negotiations of this kind. Andy was, at that time, Associate Deputy Minister of Industry Trade and Commerce. Andy had roots, several generations back in Austria and he was determined to make a nostalgic visit to the area of Kniewas, where his forbears had lived, when we visited the Rotax factory nearby, in Wels.

In advance of the visit, Andy had enquired whether there were still local people with the name Kniewasser and had found that the chief of police in Kniewas was so named. He had contacted him and arranged to meet at a prearranged time and place in Kniewas.

We left Bonn in a chauffeur-driven 600 series Mercedes Limousine, cruising at 225-245 km/hour on the Autobahn. The car had been kindly provided by Ernst von Siemens of the SiemensundHeilske Company. We stopped over in Munich, where we visited the famous beer hall where Hitler used to make his speeches. The beer was served by the litre (ein mass) and there was a good deal of rowdiness and practical joking among the crowd. One man had his bowler hat lying upside down on a table and it was neatly and accurately filled with beer poured by a reveller from the balcony about 15 feet above.

The following day we went to Kniewas. Andy and his wife got out of the car and the police chief came forward, put his arm around Andy’s wife and kissed her. She was overcome with emotion. She said, “He did that just like your father always did. He’s just like him!” It appeared that the resemblance was amazing considering Andy’s family had left the region three or four generations before. There really is something in heredity.

They took us to the house where Andy’s great grandparents once lived. It had their initials entwined in a plaster wreath on the ceiling. The people living in this modest house had no connection with the Kniewasser family, but they laid on a magnificent spread of cold cuts, breads and pastries for us. It was mid-afternoon and we had to leave for a civic reception to be held for us in Linz. It had been a busy day and our hosts in Linz insisted on dragging us around the new technical college we were there to see, at very great length. Then we sat down with the Mayor and all the dignitaries to a sumptuous multi-course dinner. There I spent two of the most uncomfortable hours of my life. I am usually a pretty good trencherman, but the events of the day and all the rich, solid food in Kniewas had left me with no appetite at all. I picked at the dinner, and tried my best not to offend our very gracious hosts, but I’m not at all sure I succeeded.

After the dinner, we drove on to Vienna and I have rarely been so glad to bed down in an hotel as I was in the Hotel Sacher that night.

It was following a Club of Rome meeting in Tokyo that I took the opportunity to take a look at Australian science policy and, incidentally to visit my old friends of Cambridge days in Australia. I flew on a Quantas DC-8 direct from Tokyo to Sidney – a non-stop flight of 11½ hours. Seated beside me in First Class was a pilot who turned out to be a member of the Queen’s flight who was on his way to take over the Flight during the Queen’s visit to Australia. I knew that Quantas was the only airline that flew the Tokyo-Sidney route direct and I asked him how safe he felt it was, being practically devoid of alternate landing strips, wholly over water and probably close to the maximum range of a fully-fuelled DC-8. He said he had a few reservations too, because he suspected that a shift in weather conditions could easily mop up some or most of the statutory 1½ hours reserve fuel and leave the pilot with little flexibility if the weather was very bad at the time of arrival. I am sure that Quantas made very sure of the met. forecast before letting the flight leave Tokyo.

The Quantas DC-8

I stayed at the Gazebo Hotel in King’s Cross in Sidney. Opening the french windows of my room to see the sunset, I was passed by a number of what appeared to be flying golf balls. It took the rest of the evening to chase them down. The bugs in Australia have to be seen to be believed. Thank goodness Ottawa is relatively free from them.

The Gazebo Hotel, Kings Cross

The ferry from the terminal near to the celebrated Opera House took me across Sidney Harbour to Manly where I was met by Hanbury Brown. Hanbury was one of the small pioneer RDF (radar) group with Watson-Watt in Bawdsey in the mid-’30s and had been a wartime colleague in TRE. After the war, his interests veered towards radio-astronomy and he spent several years of independent research at Jodrell Bank where Lovell was building his giant steerable radio-telescope. Later he and his wife Heather settled in Australia and brought up their family there. By this time, Hanbury was a leading astronomer in Australia and his research with Twiss on the intensity interferometer applied to optical observations had provided the basis for modern long base-line astronomy.

With Hanbury Brown (L) at Forty Baskets

Their house was high on a hill overlooking the bay in a place with the unlikely name of Forty Baskets. We had heard all about it over the years from Heather’s amusing and highly literate sagas which she wrote at frequent intervals and sent to a small group of family and friends. Heather, whom Hanbury had met in Jodrell Bank, was a cousin of Joyce Lovell, the wife of the famous radio astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell who had, of course, also been a wartime colleague of ours at TRE. The Browns took me up the east coast in the vintage Alvis tourer (convertible) which was his pride and joy. The scenery was magnificent but I could only get the merest impression before I had to leave for my meetings in Canberra. Nevertheless, we had time to talk a good deal. Hanbury is one of the many friends I have in various parts of the world with whom I can take up the conversation where it left off after a month, a year or 30 years, without the slightest sense of awkwardness or discontinuity. The Browns retired to a beautiful old house in Penton Mewsey near Andover in Hampshire where we visited them again about 5 years before he died in 1999.

In Canberra I compared notes with the government on science policies and remarked on the similarity between our problems. We had created an independent Science Council as the critic and conscience of government science policy. They had done a similar thing, but in a much more sensible way. Unlike the Royal Society of Canada, at the time, the Australian Academy of Sciences was a real power in the land. The Australian government gave it a very substantial grant, with no strings attached. The Academy created its own Council to provide public commentary, criticism and advice on government actions relating to science and technology. This seemed to me to be a much healthier arrangement than the Canadian one, because it harnessed the best and most appropriate individuals automatically and militated against political appointments which have been the bane of all advisory bodies and commissions in Canada.

I ended the trip by visiting Alan Moore in Melbourne. Alan had been a colleague in the PCRS Laboratory in Cambridge in the ’40s. He and his wife threw a reunion party for us to which they invited several Australians from out of town who had also been with us in Cambridge. One of them, Brent Greenhill, was a chemist with whom I wrote a joint technical paper in 1948:

An Apparatus for Measuring Small Temperature Changes in Liquids, E.B. Greenhill and J.R. Whitehead. Journal of Scientific Instruments, Vol 26, No 3, March 1949.

The reunion party: Alan Moore (L), Brent Greenhill (C)

Alan had returned to Australia following his stint in Cambridge, to his home CSIRO establishment to which the Cambridge Lab had been evacuated during the War. We had great fun touring Melbourne – particularly the magnificent park with kiwis and kangaroos roaming at large – but the real pleasure was renewing the friendships we had made in Cambridge in the ’40s. I was very sorry to have to rush back to Canada.