Deranged

In early 1957, just before he left the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Association for the electricity sector, Christopher Hinton traveled to the Savoy Hotel in London and gave a rather lengthy speech (some eight pages) at the annual luncheon of the British Electrical and Allied Industries Research Association. Not so fascinating, you might well say. But I like his great ease on his feet, his rhythm, his rhythm, and his candor.

Mr. Chairman, your Excellencies, my Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, I imagine few people, other than politicians (who presumably like it) are more pressed to make speeches and give lectures than those who have worked from the outset on the atomic energy project. But I am quite sure that the problem of making speeches is made more difficult for us than for any other body of men because, if you occupy a senior position in the atomic energy association, you are discouraged from saying anything more controversial than “Good morning” or Good afternoon” without first submitting a script.

I am only too willing to admit the advantages of doing this because one is constantly warned of the dangers with which one is beset. I recently went to Sweden to lecture there. Before going, I was interview by the Press, and I was asked (among other things” whether I thought that the Swedish atomic energy programme would be successful. I said, “Yes, I am quite certain it will be successful, after Sweden has set itself the problem of using nuclear energy for space heating. For this purpose you need only recover your heat at comparatively low temperature, and to recover heat at low temperature is a reasonably easy problem; it is when you start to recover heat at the high temperatures which you need in order to generate power that the problem becomes difficult. I am therefore quite certain that the Swedish programme will be successful. On the other hand, as an engineer I have always rather been taught to believe that unnecessarily to downgrade heat is something of a crime.”

That evening I travelled to Stockholm, and I was a little deranged when I woke up the next morning to find the Swedish papers with the headline “Sir Christopher Hinton condemns Sweden’s atomic energy programme as criminal.” (Laughter). Incidents of this sort make one realise that scripts, even if they do avoid these incidents, at least enable one to say to one’s colleagues “Well, this is what I thought I was saying.” (Laughter).

Hinton, Christopher. 1957. Speech, May 1, 1957. AB 19/23. National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom.
Christopher Hinton speech

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