Tag: Faraday House

Progressing Wisdom – the preamble.

A reflection on intelligence, learning and knowledge.

Today’s essay has been prompted by a fascinating exchange of views and comments on a post recently published by Patrice Ayme.  More of that tomorrow.

Before getting to the heart of things, I feel compelled to offer a little background on my own educational journey. It is presented today as a preamble to tomorrow’s main essay.

By rights, I should have enjoyed a stunning academic journey as a young man.  My mother holds a double degree in French and German from Cambridge University.  My father was both a Chartered Architect and Chartered Surveyor and worked for Barclay Perkins & Co at their Anchor Brewery in Southwark, London all his working life.  My uncle, Christian Schiller, took up a mathematics scholarship at Sidney Sussex college at Cambridge University and ended up HM Inspector of Schools in the United Kingdom. Notably, he was a promoter of progressive ideas in primary education.

But it was not to be so.

My father died suddenly and with very little warning five days before Christmas in 1956.  I had turned 12-years-old some six weeks previously and just completed my first term at Preston Manor County Grammar School.  My secure, comfortable young life was thrown into emotional turmoil with one of the consequences being that instead of passing a clutch of GCE ‘O-Level’ exams, I barely managed to pass two subjects and was unable to continue on with a higher level of studying and the consequent sitting of GCE ‘A-Level’ exams, a pre-requisit for university.

Somehow, I then managed to win a place as a student at the Faraday House of Electrical Engineering, in those days based at Southampton Row, London.  It was to study for a Diploma in Electrical Engineering.  The requirement was that by the end of my first year at Faraday House I should pass two A-level examinations.

I was very happy as a college student.  That first year was spent entirely learning about engineering with much time ‘hands-on’ in the engineering workshop. Then came time for me to sit those two A-level exams. I failed both of them! There was no choice but for me to leave the college.

So that’s enough to demonstrate that academic prowess was not my speciality.

However, being unable to jump through the hoops needed for a degree or equivalent didn’t mean that I was a poor learner; far from it.

After my father’s death, my mother remarried and my ‘new’ Dad was very supportive.  He had a background in communications and quickly encouraged me to become a radio amateur.  I joined the nearby Radio Society of Harrow (still in existence!) and their encouragement enabled me to pass the full set of exams necessary to become a licensed radio amateur and a full member of the Radio Society of Great Britain.  My amateur call sign was (and still is) G3PUK. I was 17.


I can still whistle the alphabet in morse code, from A to Z, and the numbers 0 to 9!

Later on, when I was an apprentice at the British Aircraft Corporation’s site in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, one of the commercial staff, Jim Jenner, spent many hours preparing me for the Institute of Advanced Motorists examination. I passed that exam and became a full member of the IAM in May, 1966.

So there’s my background that, hopefully, will set the scene to a wonderful exchange of views and ideas that flowed from Patrice’s blog. Ideas that will be explored tomorrow.

For the reason, the powerful reason, that the intelligence and wisdom of humanity has always been important.  But now, in this time of the affairs of man, our collective intelligence and wisdom has never been more important.

Nostalgic musings

Early days in London

In my recent post Electrosensitivity, I wrote about “spending a number of years studying for a Diploma in Electrical Engineering at Faraday House, Southampton Row, London and becoming a UK Radio Amateur at the age of 17 (G3PUK)“.

In reverse order, I shall start with becoming a UK Radio Amateur, now rather back in the mists of time!

After my father died in 1956 my mother subsequently remarried.  Her new husband was Richard Mills and he was very knowledgeable about radio matters; he was a technical author in the radio-communications industry.  It was Richard, my step-dad, who showed me how to make a crystal set and I started listening to the strange world of wireless radio.  It fascinated me and motivated me to save up my pennies and buy an ex-military radio receiver known as a R1155.


I had joined the Harrow Radio Society who, amazingly, are still active today, as their website demonstrates.

Under the fabulous tutelage of many of the older ‘hams’ I went on to sit my exams and on Valentine’s Day 1962 was awarded the Postmaster-General’s Amateur Radio Certificate.  I applied for a call-sign and was allocated G3PUK.  I was just 17 years old!



Now some memories of Faraday House.  I can do no better than refer you to an article that appeared on the Electrical Review website in the UK.  As the article was published over three years ago, I think republishing it on Learning from Dogs isn’t being too naughty.


Faraday House Association closes after 105 years


It is with sadness we report the Faraday House Old Students Association (FHOSA) is to close after operating continuously over the last 105 years. It had been host to thousands of chartered electrical engineers. The Association membership is derived from old students of Faraday House.

In 1888 the revised Electric Lighting Act encouraged many local authorities to apply for Parliamentary Powers to establish generating stations to transmit power. Faraday House was founded to train engineers in this new practice. The college started life as the Electrical Standardising, Testing and Training Institution at Charing Cross but in June 1890 used the name Faraday House. It was located in the Charing Cross area, and fees were 100 guineas per annum. The first Faraday House Dinner was held in 1895 – it was free and some 170 attended. In 1905 the FHOSA was formed and 100 old students joined. A move was then made to Southampton Row. By now the college had 110 students.

In 1909 Dr Russell was appointed principal, and pioneered the sandwich course. This meant students had a year or so of theory and then experienced work in industry, returning again to more theory. By 1914 many old students joined up and a crash course was started to aid the war effort. By 1919 some 350 had been in the services and 34 had died. In 1920 the fees had risen to 300 guineas.

By 1928 1000 students had joined the Old Students Association and in 1929 a 40th anniversary dinner was held. In 1939 a discussion with the governors resulted in a decision to evacuate the college to Thurlestone in Devon. A new principal, Dr WRC Coode-Adams, took over from Dr Russell. Faraday House took over the Links Hotel. Staff and students who were married lived in the hotel or in houses that had been taken over by the college.

In 1942 the college returned to Southampton Row. After the war Faraday House had difficulty in recruiting, students were lured to other colleges and universities by grants. In 1957 Mr GH Randolph Martin was appointed Principal. He had been a lecturer at the college since 1948. The college closed its doors in 1967 as losses were now running at £20,000 per year.

During its lifetime Faraday House produced a succession of engineers who attained the most senior positions in industry and electrical supply in many countries, and six old students have been president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now the IET).

The Old Students Association has a membership that is steadily growing older and shrinking as members die. The closure was inevitable without younger people coming forward to run it. The FHOSA will shut its doors finally after the Annual General Meeting in March 2010.

Here’s the front of the building.

Faraday House, London
Faraday House, London

How the years have flown by!

Kepler 22b

In a sense the discovery of a potential life-supporting planet isn’t news.

What do I mean by that sub-heading?

Many (and I mean ‘many’) years ago I was a student at Faraday House Electrical Engineering College in Southampton Row, London.  The College was closely associated with London University and one year there was an invite to attend a lecture by the famous British astronomer, Sir Bernard Lovell.

Sir Bernard Lovell and the Jodrell Bank radio telescope

Despite that lecture being about 45 years ago, I still recall Sir Bernard explaining the statistics of the universe to demonstrate that the odds of another planet somewhere ‘out there’ that could support life were huge.  (Just as an aside do read this interesting story of Jodrell Bank picking up signals from the Russian Lunar 15 just as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin prepared to leave the moon’s surface.)

So with the positive identification of this planet some 600 light-years away, Sir Bernard’s speculation has been proved spot-on.

But in another very real sense, the discovery of Kepler 22b is astounding.  Step outside the science of the find and just cogitate a little about the implications; the deep philosophical issues that Kepler 22b raises.  Here’s an extract from Northern Voices Online news,

The excitingly named Kepler 22b, a planet believed to have been discovered orbiting a star a mere 600 light years away, is being hailed as a “New Earth”. But sci-fi fans shouldn’t get too excited just yet: as always with these stories, the likelihood is that we have not met the neighbours. Or, if we have, they probably aren’t very exciting conversationalists.

Talking about the likelihood of intelligent life on Kepler 22b, Dr Lewis Dartnell, of the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL, said, “There are big hurdles that life has to get over, and we don’t know how big a hurdle the origin of life itself is. You simply can’t tell with a single datum – you can’t do stats when N=1.

The N that Dr Dartnell mentioned was earth: the only known planet inhabiting intelligent life forms, or better still, life forms of any kind.

Dr Dartnell further adds, “The interesting thing will be when we go to Mars and Europa and see whether there are bacteria there. It would be enormously significant if life is found there. But the next step, once Kepler has looked at a lot of planets, will be to see what their atmospheres are made of, using infrared spectroscopy.

“If one or two of them have oxygen in the atmosphere, it may be a transient thing – like Venus, undergoing a runaway greenhouse effect – but if we find, say, 20 Earth-like planets, all with the signature of oxygen in their atmosphere, then that would be very unlikely. Life would be the more reasonable explanation,” concluded Dr Dartnell.

Read the rest of this article here.

There are many news reports online but this short video caught my eye.

The latest NASA report is here from which is quoted,

NASA’s Kepler Mission Confirms Its First Planet in Habitable Zone of Sun-like Star

NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the “habitable zone,” the region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.

The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don’t yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.

Previous research hinted at the existence of near-Earth-size planets in habitable zones, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Two other small planets orbiting stars smaller and cooler than our sun recently were confirmed on the very edges of the habitable zone, with orbits more closely resembling those of Venus and Mars.

“This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin,” said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Kepler’s results continue to demonstrate the importance of NASA’s science missions, which aim to answer some of the biggest questions about our place in the universe.”

So let me leave you with this tantalising thought.  One day it will be confirmed that there is intelligent life on a planet out there in the universe.  That is likely to be one of the astounding events ever in the history of man on this planet.  Even trying some wild guesses about how that will change mankind’s self-perception is more than difficult – yet it will change the way we look at ourselves irrevocably!

I pray that I am still alive when that happens, as I’m sure many others must do.