Nothing is impossible: honouring Otto von Guericke

Otto von Guericke
I remember when I was about 12 years old, my old science master Mr Hills introduced our class of 25 boys (at King Edward VI School, Southampton) to von Guericke's hemispheres. That experiment engraved the name of von Guericke forever in my mind.

Von Guericke was an amazing chap, as I have recently learnt from my colleague Dr Conlon, who has just written a book about him. I helped him publish it because I remembered fondly Mr Hills' lesson, all those years ago ... Hills invited us all to try to separate the two cast iron hemispheres, held together by nothing but a vacuum! Everyone else (or a good number, any way) had a go and failed. Then I tried, and managed to put asunder what the vacuum had so cleverly joined. "Everything is apparently possible for McDermott", Mr Hills observed with characteristic dryness.

An interesting chap, Mr WJF Hills. I suppose he may well be dead by now. If so, God rest him.

If you would like to know more about von Guericke, whose critics said "nothing is impossible" because they thought the vacuum a nonsense, then buy Dr Conlon's fascintating book (Thinking about Nothing: Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Experiments on the vacuum) on the life and work of this true renaissance man.


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