One of my favourite archetypes is the ‘mad scientist’: perhaps it was too many Hammer Horror films at an early age I don’t know but it is a trope that continues to get my attention (Less said about jokes about me going mad before I finished my Physics degree the better…. 😉 ).
Anyway during one of my bouts of insomnia I was watching the UK cable channel Yesterday in which they were showing an oldish series of US documentaries ‘Secrets of War’, the episode I caught was on big and I mean big artillery and the man who built the Iraqi supergun Dr Bull. That got my attention so I whiled away the small hours watching it.
Like everything else these days the full show is on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9eG9U13jb8
I remember years ago when I was in the ATC I found a section of the supergun stashed away on an RAF base post impoundment. It was a massive piece of steel, 1m diameter with such a smooth bore it seemed mirrored.
It’s inventer was the former child prodigy Dr. Gerald Bull. The documentary made reference to a biography called ‘Arms and the Man’ by William Lowther. A quick look on the net had a cheap copy winging its way to me. Throughout the book Bull (who ended up being assassinated for his troubles (the smart money is on Mossad)) comes across as idealistic possibly to the point of nieveity in his pursuit of a gun launched satellite, taking the Iraqi money to build his gun whilst helping them out on Saddam’s ballistic missile ‘problems’. One thing that comes across is how he distances himself from his product, not seeing the real cost- probably what killed him in the end.
With the 2003 Iraq war behind us ending the chapter on Saddam era Iraq; the narrative really did feel like a glimpse back in time to the 80s, the Iran Iraq war and the end of the Cold War. Either way the book is highly recommended.
[If you like me like real life mad scientists I can also recommend you pick up ‘Wizard’ on Tesla (who should need no introduction) and ‘Sex and Rockets’ on Jack/John Whiteside Parsons (who probably does- long story short NASA rocket scientist by day and occultist by night….)].