Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fascinating Inventor No.4 - Edward Harrison, Inventor of the Small Box Respirator 1869 - 1918


My best friend Dexter comes round. He stands on the doorstep and sniffs.
'Hello,' I say for starters, and, 'come in.'
He shakes his head and carries on standing and sniffing like a complete gerbil.
'Your house smells,' he announces. He leans forward. 'You smell as well.'
'What of?' I ask. And, 'so what?'
'Baby poo, you whiff of baby poo.' He pulls a face.
'CLOSE THE FRONT DOOR!' Dad yells from the kitchen, 'ALL THE AIR IS ESCAPING!'
I picture Dad on the floor, flapping his legs and gasping for air, like a goldfish accidentally tipped out of the tank. I am about to amuse Dexter with this exciting image when he pipes up.
'Can't stay.' And he runs off.
I close the front door and sniff the imprisoned air. I shake my head sadly. Dexter is right - the waft of poo is everywhere. And it took my best friend to tell me.
It makes me think of the little known inventor hero, Edward Harrison.

" To save our armies from poison gas he have his last full measure of devotion."

These are words on a war memorial to him. I think they mean that he worked himself to death. And although Mum and Dad are always saying that they work far too hard and also, what did my last slave die of and I will be the death of them; I do not think they really understand what working yourself To Death is like. Edward Harrison did it and it is fatal as well as being absolutely heroic. Because Mum and
Dad definitely did not die striving to design and get into mass production the first gas masks or small box respirators.

Apparently, he and other chemistry heroes went into sealed rooms full of gas, to test the mask. This is mad but VERY brave and of course absolutely fatal.

And, although the Prime Minister of Great Britain, did use the telephone to tell me to go to bed, he did not speak to The Parents and offer his admiration, condolences and the revelation that he had decided to promote them to Brigadier-general in charge of all chemical warfare. Which is a big relief actually. By the time Winston Churchill wrote to Edward Harrison, to say, bother and he was going to give him all of those things - he was dead. By the time the French got round to giving him a medal called the Legion d'honeur, he was dead. By the time the war ended, Edward Harrison was dead but lots and lots of men (and dogs, see pic) who might have died, did not.

A letter from Winston Churchill to Edward Harrison's widow, alongside a medal and a photo of Harrison


8 comments:

Lily said...

I think it was jolly thoughtful of Winston Churchill to include a paint chart with the letter and medal. He probably thought a new colour scheme would cheer widow Harrison up, although I don't think much of his suggestion (marked with a cross) of khaki and grey. I suppose being war time, it would have been unpatriotic to pick any other colours.

Suzan Abrams said...

A poignant post and educational too, Wilf. I'm glad you and Dexter are best friends, by the way.

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

I think you might have to take at least part of a leaf out of Harrison's book if you are to survive the waft of baby pooh and retain any friendships. Baby pooh is noxious - though I'm sure you realise that by now. Good luck trying to find a solution!

Jon M said...

Wow what an inventor and what a moving post!

Wilf said...

I do not think Edward Harrison wanted a medal but I suppose the PM felt a bit guilty about him dying and missing out on being the boss of chemical warfare. If I had a medal it would be blue, yellow and green.

Wilf said...

Thankyou, Suzan. I cannot seem to get rid of Dexter and I suppose he can be quite fun sometimes.

Wilf said...

I think, AV, I will have to invent somesort of protection clothing. So, that will at least be interesting.

Wilf said...

Thankyou, Jon M.