Thursday, September 14, 2017

I Wanna Be a Victorian Man of Science!

That’s it. It’s settled. Settled this morning, on the drive to work, as I listened enraptured to Sir Edward Elgar’s Symphony No. 2 in E-flat.

Ever been asked that question, “What time period would you like to live in other than the present?” For years I’d reply “the early 1950s.” Why? The atomic boom. Er, not the boom from the bomb, but the boom from the exponential expansion of atomic physics. I’d envision myself a young turk physicist out in the black-and-white Joshua-treed deserts of Alamogordo. Working at a secret US laboratory, delving the micro mysteries of the nucleus and beyond. Shirtsleeves rolled up and a lit Camel clenched in my teeth, I’d be at home swinging a hammer at an atomic pile or sketching chalk lines on a blackboard teasing out the internal structure of Uranium.

Now, after listening to Elgar’s work, composed arguably at the height of the British Empire (1910, I believe), that’s changed.

I want to be a Victorian man of science!

I now see myself with a top coat and ascot carriaging through the English countryside. A man of independent means, with a housekeeper and gardener to keep the family estate going while I and my valet trudge across exotic landscapes conducting esoteric – and risky – experiments. I’d even rescue a dazzling damsel in distress from the local natives with a clever plan and some old fashioned fisticuffs: one of those dark-haired British beauties bedecked in a fortress of fabric. My network of colleagues would extend across Europe – and not without rivals, too, such as Arronax in France or Lidenbrock in Dusseldorf. The race would be on to prove whose theory is correct – three scientists enter, only one leaves! And in my spare time I’d prove the unprovable theorems and solve the unsolvable conjectures by candlelight and cognac at the hearth and blow dust of ancient mediaeval manuscripts …

Yes, that’d be the life for me.

A Victorian man of science!

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