Monday, December 18, 2006
Nige, a tall and sagacious type, draws my attention to the career of Thomas Midgley Jr.. This man grew up in Ohio, my favourite state though I have never been there, and went on to 'have more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in history.' Tom's first masterpiece was his idea of putting lead in petrol to prevent 'knocking'; unfortunately it also killed people. The car companies kept quiet about this, even though at one production facility the effects were disastrous. 'Within the first two months of its operation, the Bayway plant was plagued by more cases of lead poisoning, hallucinations, insanity, and then five deaths in quick succession.' Midgley himself had to retreat to Miami to rest his lungs. His next work of genius was the use of Freon, a CFC, for refrigeration. This, of course, was to result in the stripping of the ozone layer. Great Tom was disabled by polio in this fifties. With typical inventive energy, he devised a system of ropes and pulleys to lift him from the bed. Sadly, aged 55, he became entangled in the ropes of the machine and died of strangulation. Utter, blind, confident folly is so consoling.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:56 am