The Value of History

I am at a stage in life where I am supposed to be retired. At the age of 86, people are surprised to learn that I regret my semi-retired status. Fortunately, I continue to be active in committee activities for the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other technical societies.


As an antidote to inactivity, I have started writing a book tracing my life’s activities up to the present. As the story progresses, I can see how my personal history interacts with the history of the world from my perspective.

History enriches our experience and understanding of our lives. It is important to learn to see the history that surrounds us everywhere. Since I was born in 1935, in Britain, I have powerful memories of World War II. The current situation in Ukraine mirrors the outbreak of that war. Bombing and the destruction of hospitals, schools, homes and government buildings evoke a haunting memory. It is essential that we do not forget the evils of Hitler’s Germany and recognise its resemblance to current events. It begs the question of whether history will always repeat itself.

Readers of my ‘Letter from America’ column can trace some of my personal history with its references to current events. The progression of technology, from 1960 until now, in non-destructive testing (NDT) is important knowledge for current practitioners. 
In my articles, I have attempted to correlate the technical development of the processes and equipment for accomplishment of NDT with the improvements in personal safety and personal protective equipment (PPE). Current practitioners can appreciate the activities of their predecessors under these difficult conditions and recognise the value of these improvements for the current conditions.

Improvements are incremental in nature, but as with all processes in the twentieth century, they have accelerated dramatically. Some of my recent articles have profiled improvements in personnel safety, miniaturisation of equipment, advances in electronic technology and new processes for the detection of damage mechanisms. Ultrasonic technology, undreamt of in my early introduction to NDT, is constantly being introduced and improved.

The study of history fosters a sense of wonder about the world, the kind of wonder that nurtures intellectual curiosity. It makes our world more interesting. In the world of engineering and NDT, it serves us well as citizens, participants in the workforce and as human beings.

I will continue to share the progression of technical advances in NDT, so that newcomers to the profession can see the pillars upon which the current technology stands.

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