If there’s one thing I enjoy it’s a flagrant disregard of safety by an authority figure. Nothing made me grin more as a child than seeing my father march down to the incinerator with a load of potentially flammable material and 4 litres of petrol on a Saturday afternoon.
My Form 3 science teacher blew up our classroom on a weekly basis, often for no apparent reason other than to watch things burn. Sure, he’d often add some actual science into the lesson but we all knew how excited he was from that manic glint in his eye when he fired up the Bunsen burner.
“Thompson, hold that Magnesium in the flame, will you? No, you don’t need safety glasses, you pansy. Just squint, lad!”
He once he made salt by putting a chunk of sodium into a barely sealed jar of chlorine gas. As anyone who knows chemistry will confirm, the explosion and subsequent voluminous discharge of noxious green gas was astonishing. Yes, we all should have been wearing safety equipment and many kids developed hacking coughs not unlike those heard in the trenches of Ypres in World War 1, but we all enjoyed tasting the end product to ensure it was actually salt. Well, salt-flavoured charcoal with a slight undertone of mesothelioma.
His teaching methods may have been a little unorthodox and downright dangerous but his enthusiasm enamoured me with the world of science. I can’t help but think kids these days would have a greater interest in science if it was taught by ruddy-faced men with no eyebrows.