In a phone call with the Badger last week, his cousin spoke proudly about their career in oceanographic science and engineering, and of how grateful they were for the science and technology advances of recent decades. His cousin specialised in producing and operating submersibles, and he expressed a little regret that his children had no interest in science and engineering because it was too difficult. We laughed, reminisced about science and technological advances during our lifetime, and jovially agreed that these advances underpinned everything that is good in the world. The conversation subsequently played on the Badger’s mind as he watched the coronation of King Charles III, the first coronation for 70 years, over the weekend.
Life was very different in 1953 when the last coronation took place. Rock and roll was in its infancy, music was listened to on radios or gramophones playing 78rpm discs, and only 10% of UK households had telephones. Central heating was a rarity and coal was the dominant fuel for heating homes. The rationing of petrol and sugar following World War II had just been lifted, the first commercial jet airliner service was barely a year old, and the USA announced it had a thermonuclear weapon. The only way of looking inside the human body was by X-rays, the first vaccine for polio became available, and Crick and Watson announced they had discovered the structure of DNA. In 1953 there was virtually no vandalism, swearing in public was an offence, men gave up their seats for women on buses and trains, and there was only 53 Kilobytes of high-speed random-access memory on the whole planet!
Roll forward 70 years to King Charles’ coronation and life is different due to the dramatic science and technology advances of the intervening decades. As the Badger watched the coronation events, his cousin’s words about being grateful for these advances echoed in his head, ostensibly for two reasons. The first was that advanced science and technology quietly underpinned everything associated with the coronation. The second was that his cousin sadly passed away the day before the event.
The Badger’s cousin was diagnosed with prostate cancer 14 years ago and given only months to live, but he took the opportunity to engage with a scientific research programme using experimental treatments which gave him many more years with his family, the satisfaction of knowing he was helping others, and validation of his belief that science and technology was a force for good. He felt that a good STEM education not only meant that the world was your oyster, but also that it enabled the ability to create things that change lives for the better. He wanted our younger generation to share his belief and overcome any fear that science and technology is too difficult. He was inspirational and will be sadly missed.