Standing on the shoulders of giants

The edge inscription on a British £2 coin bears the quotation “standing on the shoulder of giants” from a letter written in 1676 by Isaac Newton, acknowledging how much he owed to works of others.

I joined EMI’s Central Research Laboratories (CRL) 21 years ago and two giants lingered large over the labs: Alan Blumlein and Sir Godfrey Hounsfield.

Blumlein died at the early age of 38. He died in an aircraft accident during secret trials of the H2S airborne radar system. His development in this area was one of the most significant wartime advances and remained in use for a further 50 years. He had many other notable inventions amongst his 128 patents in telecommunications, sound recording, stereophonic sound, television and radar.

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield pioneered the CT scanner, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1979. He worked on radar and later led the design team that developed the EMIDEC 1100 computer, the first all-transistor computer to be constructed in Britain. Godfrey continued to work at CRL after we did the Management Buy-Out in 1998 that formed Scipher plc.

The works of Alan Blumlein and Godfrey Hounsfield were both the inspiration and foundation of CRL’s output until it closed in 2005. In the decade that I worked there the many scientists and engineers at CRL truly stood on the shoulders of giants. The labs continued to develop technologies in the same fundamental areas: displays, wireless communications, audio and opto-electronics.

I was privileged to be part of such an exciting and dynamic place. That time helped me see the importance of research and development. It helped me understand the importance of intellectual property and the need for commercial application.

It helped me understand the future. It helped me understand that all though it seemed “we were promised flying cars and we got 140 characters”, that quietly, someone, somewhere, is working on another amazing piece of kit like the CT scanner.



All material copyright David Hulston Associates Ltd.  @davidhulston1
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David Hulston

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