Learning molecular biology was not a simple matter anymore. It began to involve atomic details that were seldom seen before the 1950’s. The last scientific revolution had been in physics and that was pretty well over with by the time the really big changes in molecular biology began. Nowadays all the new and startling developments in science are in biology,— largely based on the underpinnings of the revolution ushered in buy Watson and Crick, in the middle of the last century.
After my interesting experience with magnetism, I wondered if I could do something original with Brockhouse’s neutron scattering technique. Remembering that when I first started my studies at Dalhousie University, I wanted to become a biochemist, but had to take geophysics to pay my way. In my present situation, I might not be able to do biochemistry but I thought I had a chance of making its sister science, biophysics, my ultimate goal. But to turn to biophysics I had to achieve two things. First I had to become fully acquainted with Brockhouse’s neutron scattering technique as applied to any solid or liquid. To achieve this I collaborated with virtually every other member of the Neutron and Solid State branch. Second I had to learn all about molecular physics and biology. One way of achieving this was to attend all seminars given in the Biology Division at Chalk River. Another was to keep abreast of Journals like Progress in Biophysics & Molecular Biology, where many years later I published a review paper.
I later found out from Malcolm Graham that Dr. Hallett did not get the post of President of the University of Toronto. Malcolm explained that my former supervisor had many strong friends at U. of T., but he also had just a few more strong enemies. That’s the way things go, I guess, when you approach the pinnacles of power. In any case, the paper did me no harm at Chalk River. People concerned about radiation damage in the metallurgy branch were surprised that a neutron physicist also knew something about radiation damage.
I believe it was Francis Bacon who said, in Latin, some four hundred years ago in his Conduct of the Investigations of Nature that “the investigation of nature is best conducted when mathematics is applied to physics”. Most physicists believe that a new discovery isn’t a true one unless it can be described by mathematics. In any case mathematics is the most precise means man has to explain physical phenomena. In some branches of physics it can be the only language available. English may enhance an understanding of physical phenomena, but it will never replace mathematics.
I wondered why the sequence of names on the paper was left unaltered when we submitted the manuscript. After the paper was published in 1977, I found out that Dr. Hallett had been in the running for the presidency of U. of T. I seem to have the knack for coming up with a sample of my English whenever he was being considered for some promotion.
To return to my computational paper, the second paper based on my thesis, I had put Professor Hallett down as the lead author of the proposed paper. The lead author is usually the one who did most of the work. I even expected him to decline authorship. However, as usual, he polished the English in his own inimitable style, but left out the mathematical details of my calculations carried out with my newly acquired knowledge of computer programming. His editing was done when he was Principal of University College, a post he had been aspiring to when I’d submitted my thesis to him, a decade earlier.
In my early days at Chalk River, Roger was my inspiration and mentor, even though at a tender age of 20 he was some 10 years my junior. He was also indirectly responsible for my learning downhill skiing. This happened since he was considered an indispensable staff member, because he produced up to fifteen papers a year in a field where two papers was considered quite adequate. The hierarchy was so scared of losing him that he was granted the privilege of taking every Wednesday off in winter to go to a ski hill some 90 kilometres away. He also had the privilege of inviting staff to accompany him.
Since I seem to have strayed back to days of yore at U. of T., it seems fitting at this point to refer to a paper initially based on computer calculations carried out by me at Chalk River to explain some results in my Ph.D. thesis. The man who made this possible was Roger Cowley, who later became head of Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford. When I first arrived at Chalk River, Roger noted that I was computer illiterate. With his encouragement, I soon became quite adept at using computers to explain experimental results. I must say that becoming a “computer physicist” has become quite popular in these days of computer modelling, where experts say they can even account for the demise of our “green” earth as we know it today.
Eventually after retiring I did write to Professor Deveraj, who was then also retired and in ill health. His wife had died and he was living with his son. It seemed that every other member of our U. of T. group had visited him in Bangalore. When I think of “Smiling Buddha” my mind drifts back to those days long ago when we were at U. of T. Earlier on I referred to this precious miniature of a man sitting behind his desk facing the door and always smiling at the passers-by. To me he now seems in some respect to have been a reincarnation of the “enlightened one” – a smiling Buddha.
Cyrus was located near Bombay, in a suburb called Trombay. Many of the personnel there had spent several years at Chalk River, where they had penetrated the library archives containing references to atomic bomb studies that Canada had participated in, when Britain and the USA were using Chalk River as common ground for exchanging information about nuclear weapon development. Several of the Indian visitors had even worked in my branch. Among these was P.K. Iyengar who later became Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission. Many years later, when I was on sabbatical leave at the French Atomic Energy Commission near Paris, I met Dr. Radha Krishna from the University of Bangalore, who had worked at Trombay in the sixties, when that laboratory was busily developing the bomb for “Smiling Buddha”. He told me that the Indians working on the project were referred to in the lab as the “Canadians”.