Chapter 1: My Career Gone
Footnote: Formal Education
1948-54: Worsley (Primary) School, Worsley, Near Manchester
1954-56: Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Blackburn, Lancashire
1957-61: Colchester Royal Grammar School (6 O-levels, A-level Physics)
1961-62: Mid-Essex Technical College, Chelmsford, Essex (A-level Maths)
1962-63: Welsh College of Advanced Technology, Cardiff (DipTech)
1963-66: The Polytechnic, 309 Regent Street, London (BSc Maths Physics)
After a primary education in the idyllic woodland setting of Worseley School just to the north-west of Manchester, we moved to Blackburn. There I began my secondary education at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, which I attended from September 1954 to December 1956. This was a school strong in discipline which, unusually even back then, had Saturday mornings as part of the School week. My family then moved south where I continued my education at the prestigious...
Here I attended from January 1957 to July 1961 when Jack Elam [not the squinting baddy cowboy] was the headmaster and Eric "Chocks away chaps!" Richards was the physics master. If any of the purple blazers from the upper sixth Class of '61 are out there, I would like an email.
Academically I was a late developer, although I did get a good pass in O-level English Language a year early. I left CRGS with the following, the Additional Maths being a down-graded A-level....
Physics + Chemistry
During my years at CRGS, I developed an interest in short wave radio. Listening to the short wave bands gave me a strong sense of contact with the enormous variety of cultures and ways of thinking embodied in the human race. Furthermore, unlike the Internet, the imperfections and variability of short wave propagation induced a now-lost sense of size, depth and dimension to the earth.
I bought a notoriously heavy Canadian Marconi 'N° 9' Set which was for years my main receiver. I spent time modifying government surplus equipment, the most notable project being my 'supercharging' of a '19-set'. This was a World War II transceiver for tanks and jeeps. I later built a Heathkit Mohecan which I still have. I took and passed the Post Office Radio Amateur's Examination on 7 Oct 1961. I also did a lot of walking around north Essex and used to make a point of visiting the USAF open days at Wethersfield air base.
I was very disappointed about losing the Maths A-level. I therefore spent the next academic year October 1961 to June 1962 on an intense evening class in A-level Maths. This time I attained an excellent grade.
A-level: Maths 5
Throughout this year, I supported myself by becoming a 'student apprentice' with the Eastern Electricity Board. Although classed as a stop-gap in my master plan of the time, the concentrated
- machine shop training
- metalwork & fitting
- brasing & welding
of this short apprenticeship added what later proved to be a valuable practical dimension to my formative experience.
Equipped with two good A-levels, I embarked on one of the new Diploma in Advanced Technology courses here in September 1962. This was the first year of the DipTech courses. The course in Applied Physics which I joined was therefore necessarily still experimental. The piecemeal structure of the course, being a stranger in a strange land a long way from home, and becoming immersed in 'student life' all took their toll. These, together with wrong study methods going through the night close to the exams resulted in failure. I left in July 1963 never to return.
Here I got my second chance. Having been disillusioned with the new DipTech course, I opted now for a conventional degree course. I was accepted on a University of London external BSc course in Maths & Physics at the Polytechnic starting in September 1963. The first year lecturers were very good - particularly the maths lecturer. I remember this lecturer's love and enthusiasm for his subject and his ability to inspire a sense of marvel at the profoundness of the fundamental mathematical identities which he proved to his students. I passed the first year exams comfortably getting a:
Part I degree in
The Maths lecturers for Part II of the course were young graduates who were pre-occupied with their PhD work. They were able to write out the procedures on the blackboard but seemed unable to explain the concepts, why's and wherefore's behind the syntax. I passed the final Physics papers, but - along with everybody else but one in my maths group - failed the final papers in Maths.
Encouraged by my good first-year maths lecturer, I, along with many of the other students learned to program the college's new IBM 1620 computer which later I used to process the results of a physics experiment. I left the Polytechnic in July 1966 having completed the entire course.
The Start of My Real Education
On leaving the Polytechnic I worked as a research assistant at the Electrical Research Association in Leatherhead. During that first year of work, I set out determinedly to re-take my degree Maths through a correspondence course. Sadly, in January 1967 I caught glandular fever. This incapacitated me for six months and left me very weak. On strict doctor's orders I had to give up any attempt to retake my degree. I never caught glandular fever since and have rarely been ill.
It was then, after my formal education had finished, that my mind finally awoke. In the years that followed, being now free from the pressures of exam-based formal education, I began to read widely and in great depth.
It all started with my trying to clear my understanding of the vector calculus I had been 'taught' by the PhD graduate lecturers at college. For this I read an excellent English translation of "Electromagnetic Theory" by Max Planck. The disembodied symbols which my lecturers had written on the blackboard immediately came to life. I understood for the first time what concepts like grad, div, and curl really meant in practical reality. I could now visualise them in terms of water flowing down a stream or electromagnetic fields around a radio aerial. It was a revelation.
It is this and all the other reading that I did once my formal education was over that I feel is the foundation upon which my real knowledge is based. However, the down side I feel is that knowledge gained in this way is rarely recognised for what it is. Nevertheless, I have continued with this self-education process all the way through my career to date and have no intention of stopping.
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©Apr 1994 Robert John Morton