Science – inventors and innovators

The inventors

It is relatively easy to track Radley’s artists and writers through our records. Most work alone and often use these terms to describe themselves, their careers or their hobbies. The inventors and experimenters are harder to spot. Usually, they were working as a member of a much larger team, for example James Collingwood Tingling (1915), who worked alongside Frank Whittle on the invention of the jet engine during the 1930s and 1940s. His own company, Power Jets Ltd founded in 1936, was taken over by the state in 1944.

The Longridge brothers, Michael (1859) and Cecil (1865), both proudly included their inventions in the fields of explosives in their Register entries: Michael as a member the inventions department of the Ministry of Munitions, and subsequently serving on the General Board of the National Physical Laboratory, and Cecil as inventor of the base-fuel shell used in the earliest Royal Navy submarines. Cecil went on to become one the directors of the Daimler Motor Company in Coventry.

A precursor to Tingling in advances in aviation was Eric Bruce (1871) the inventor of the electric balloon-signalling system. Originally designed to allow British Army troops to signal within mountainous terrain during the Second South African War (1899-1902), his invention became the forerunner of aircraft-to-aircraft signalling during WW1. Boys in Radley Officers Training Corps were trained in this method of wireless signalling in 1919, but it is not clear whether the Radley connection was mentioned.

A more peaceful application of technology was the invention of the differential microphone and binaural electrical hearing apparatus, both designed for use by the deaf, by Harry Wharry (1905), a specialist surgeon. His name is still associated with some types of microphone.

HM Wharry whilst serving with the RAMC during WW1

Most celebrated of all Radley’s inventors is Charles Howard (1921), Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire, whose memorial can be seen in the Cloisters. He was awarded the George Cross for his work as a Scientific Officer during WW2, most notably as the inventor of bomb disposal. Although this research and invention was top secret during his lifetime, an even more secret aspect of his career was his work on heavy water and connection to the Manhattan Project: this is currently the topic of new research by Seamus Blackley.

Charles Howard, 20th Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire

Radleians have been involved in the development of computers since the 1960s, for example John Whittaker (1925) Administrative Officer to the Government Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, fellow of the British Computer Society, and Chairman of its Membership Board; John Mackarness (1933) who was appointed Secretary of the British Computer Society in 1965; John Marchant (1938) who became Senior Consultant at Bedford Computer Services Ltd in 1971. Dr Jeremy Tatum, physics teacher, was given access to the computer at Culham Laboratory for his personal research on astronomy in 1969. And in 1981, Michael Crowley-Milling (1931) was awarded the Glazebrook Medal and prize of the Council of the Institute of Physics for the development, design and construction of the multi-computer control system of the 400 Gev proton synchroton at CERN.

At school, the inventors and experimenters became members of the Wireless Society which flourished throughout the 1930s into the 1950s, making good use of recycled components during shortages. It was building the wireless which was the attraction. The diary of a Shell, written during his first year in 1934, records many sessions happily working on his radio. A few years later, evacuee Alan Dodson was taught how to build a miniature crystal set by an unnamed Radley don during World War 2. This laid the foundations of Alan’s own career in computers (and raises questions about the don’s possibly covert activities).

In 1954 members constructed a 10-valve amplifier for the Marionette Society – a good example of sharing skills-sets. In 1958 the Wireless Society was itself re-invented, becoming the Radio Club. Members worked on projects ranging from transistor amplifiers to cathode ray oscilloscopes, teaching themselves electronics under the guidance of science master, CH Barrow. In another collaboration with a different school society, the Radio Club embarked upon the construction of a radio telescope on the roof of the Science building, working with the Science Society. Crawley Technical College and a school in Liverpool were also cooperating in the experiment: ‘The scheme is to determine the electron density of the Sun’s corona by measurement of the attenuation of the radiation from the Crab Nebula as it passes through the Corona. An interforometer aerial system will be used with government surplus receivers. The apparatus will be operating on approximately eleven metres.’ Nearly half a century later, physics classes under Kevin Mosedale could access the Faulks Telescope in Hawaii over the internet to study astronomy and photograph galaxies. When the Science building was re-designed in 2018 it had an observatory on the roof. But the pressures of the exam system meant that fewer and fewer boys were able to devote time to such extra-curricular activities and the Radio Club faded away.

Dr HT Barrow with a science class in 1956

As technology moved away from extra-curricular clubs, the academic place for it became the Design Technology Department, with links to Physics. Design had been developing as a subject in schools during the 1960s but was still disregarded academically. At an inter-schools’ conference in the mid-1970s Radley’s Warden, Dennis Silk urged: ‘When head and hands are working closely together we are coming somewhere near the true function of education. It is possible to train an aesthetic sense and to ally it to practical skills and the needs of people. Never has it been more important to do so.’ It is perhaps no surprise therefore that it was Silk’s leadership that saw design facilities improve markedly both with the construction of the Sewell Centre and the appointment of specialist staff.


Max Horsey arrived at Radley to teach electronics in 1989. That year a new extension to the Design Department was opened in response to the introduction of ‘Craft, Design and Technology’ to the GCSE and ‘A’ level syllabi which centred on electronics and mechanisms, with future plans to provide facilities for robotics and computer-aided manufacture. The overall aim was to bridge the gap between Art, Design and Physics. At the time, the government were considering whether Design should be made a compulsory subject to age 16 within the national curriculum. In 1991 Horsey’s textbook, Electronics in Practice was published by Blackwells, to be followed by many articles in journals, particularly Everyday Practical Electronics. In this he joined the ranks of other Radley dons with published works.

The electronics exhibition at Gaudy

By 1996, many boys were exploring electronics outside of the classroom in a similar way to the Wireless Society of the 1930s and the Radio Club’s radio telescope in the 1960s, helped by Horsey and his technician, Trevor Garnham. A number entered the national Young Electronic Designer Awards and the Young Engineer competition for the first time that year. Several of the boys published articles about their work in peer-reviewed journals.

In 1996, Philip Clayton was the first boy to introduce Radley to PIC – a new and revolutionary means of electronic control. This was well above A level and was the reason for Radley winning a number of electronics competitions for several years. In 1998, educating the boys came of age when Butterworth-Heinemann published John Morton’s book PIC: your personal introductory course while he was still in the Sixth form: a first for the school.

Clare Sargent 2022