RocketOne of the more enlightened things that happened at Trinity when we were in the upper sixth form (1965-66), was that Stan Guffogg, the chemistry teacher, used to let us into the lab to do practical during lunchtimes.  However, he had reckoned without the inspired lunacy of J.E., whose brilliance as a scientist was matched only by his recklessness in some of his endearing eccentricities with chemicals.

During one of the lunchtime sessions, J.E. made some sodium amalgam in a narrow-necked reflex flask.  He poured it into a small bottle, but there was a film of the stuff left on the flask.  When someone asked, “How are you going to clean that,” J.E. had no hesitation in squirting some water in it.  The thing fizzed like a firework for a few seconds while we all dived for cover.  There was then a loud bang and showers of glass everywhere.  Well, it was certainly more entertaining than Mr Chater’s inorganic chemistry lessons!

That might have been it, had not two members of the lower sixth decided to use this stuff one lunchtime to make sparks.  They were, however, disturbed by a member of staff, and one of them – not the sharpest knife in the draw, I think – decided to get rid of the evidence by throwing it down the sink.  He ended up with singed eyebrows as the whole sink exploded into flame.Rocket

Needless to say, there was a huge hoo-ha and J.E. was reprimanded for making the stuff.  Incredibly, however, we were still allowed to come into the lab at lunchtimes. How times have changed with health and safety!

Item sent in by Dave Littlewood

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