This book should be thought of as a companion to the book by David Avery that I reviewed in the November 2017 issue of "The Torch". Avery's book painted "the big picture", whereas this book presents the view from "the coal face", if you will. Indeed, the chapters in this book were written by the scientists themselves.
It was my good fortune to know many of these authors, either personally or by reputation. Many of them occupied senior positions in the Canadian defence research organization when I joined in 1966. George Lindsey, the editor of this book, ended an illustrious career as Chief of Operational Research in DND. LeRoy Nelms, Chair of the Steering Committee, also had a long career in DRB mainly related to space and telecommunications. Many of the members of his committee had similarly long and memorable careers in the service of Canada.
Notable to me is that the Preface was provided by Marc Garneau. Marc is well known as Canada's first astronaut, but before that he was a Combat Systems Engineer in the Canadian navy. Many DRB/CRAD personnel, including myself, knew him and his colleagues in that capacity because the combat systems suite on a modern naval vessel reflects the cutting/bleeding edge of military science and technology.
One thing this book illustrates very well is the astonishing variety of work that was carried out. Problems presented themselves and were addressed. At the time, much of the work was highly classified and therefore not publicly visible. As an example, a massive effort was devoted to chemical warfare research, including the establishment of a new specialized facility for field work (Suffield Experiment Station. now CFB Suffield, in southern Alberta). Another example is work on proximity fuzes; during WW2, a brand new highly-classified technology but now an accepted feature of the military technology landscape.
But other work initiated during WW2 has become increasingly important. Nuclear power is one such area. The concept was discovered shortly before WW2 and immediately seized upon as the basis for a weapon of immense power. This work has continued in the decades since, but even during the war the potential for peaceful uses such as electricity generation were recognized. Another, of course, is radar, but now much more sophisticated and versatile.
My final thought is to note that a significant proportion of the work discussed in this book would not today be classed as research. Much of it was "problem solving", and the time/distance between the research laboratory and the front line was in many cases astonishingly short. Today, without the impetus of the wartime emergency, "research", "development", "production" and "in-service use" tend to be walled off in separate bureaucratic silos in the interests of "efficiency".
As the Introduction points out, only two of the contributors to this book were professional writers, so the quality and style of the prose are somewhat uneven. But this nevertheless serves to emphasize the "first person" nature of the book. It is a record of accomplishment of which all Canadians should be proud. Most highly recommended.
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|Last updated: 01 November 2017|