The Perse School

Memories of joining The Perse

Professor Jake Waddington, Old Persean (1947)
8 Oct 2015

My first significant view of the school was standing in a light snow fall watching the school burning after being hit by a German incendiary. The rest fell on Parkers Piece and did no damage. I found one in the snow. Picking it up I realized what it was and gave it to an air raid warden who was also watching the fire and who put it in a bucket of water and took it away.

The fire was put out and a few days later I entered the school for the first time. It was damaged and smelly but open.

My first memory after entering was being told by the headmaster that although some of my teachers were women we must still address them as Sir. Since I was transferring to The Perse from Summerhill School, which had been evacuated to North Wales, I found this so strange that I chuckled and was reprimanded. From then on I learnt to adapt.

After leaving the Perse in 1947 Professor Waddington spent two years in the Army, then read Physics at the University of Bristol. Following a BSc and PhD he stayed on with a Royal Society Fellowship to study cosmic radiation, and spent a year in Minnesota on exchange. When the University of Minnesota asked him to come back permanently he accepted, and has enjoyed funding from NASA and other federal agencies to support a wide range of satellite, accelerator and balloon experiments.

His work has taken him all over the world and he has clocked up more than a million air miles. In his retirement he worked on a project to get a payload on the Space Station. When that failed the group did the next best thing and built instruments to study the heavy nuclei in the cosmic rays with balloons flown in Antarctica.

In 2013 they established a new record for a long duration flight with a heavy (2 ton) instrument; flying at around 125,000 feet for 55 days. They recorded the largest number of heavy nuclei ever and will use these data to further study the origin of the cosmic radiation. This payload has been recovered and returned to the States and the group has funding for a reflight in 2017 or 2018.

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