Friday 19 December 2014

Men of Yore: Gustaf Dalén

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

Nils Gustaf Dalén

Nils Gustaf Dalén was born at Stenstorp in Skaraborg, Sweden on November 30, 1869, the son of a farmer. After his preliminary education, he entered a School of Agriculture to study dairy farming but he was later advised by Gustaf de Laval, who recognized his natural gift for mechanics, to seek a technical education. He prepared himself for the Chalmers Institute at Gothenburg and gained admission in 1892. He graduated as an engineer in 1896 and spent a year in Switzerland, studying under Professor Stodola at the Eidgenössisches Polytechnikum.

On his return to Sweden, Dalén carried out some research at Gothenburg and set up as a consulting engineer. He became Technical Chief of the Svenska Karbid- och Acetylen A.B. (Swedish Carbide and Acetylene, Ltd.) in 1901 and he later joined the Gas Accumulator Company where he became Chief Engineer in 1906. In 1909, the company was reorganized as Svenska Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator (AGA) (Swedish Gas Accumulator Ltd.) with Dalén as Managing Director.

Dalén's inventiveness first showed in his early days on his father's farm when he built a threshing machine powered by an old spinning wheel. He contrived a device to indicate the butterfat content of milk and thereby made his contact with de Laval. On completion of his advanced education, he worked on the construction of a hot-air turbine and related air compressors and pumps. He also invented a pasteurization apparatus and a milking machine.

In 1901, Dalén's company purchased the patent rights of the French invention of dissolved acetylene and he began his work on automatic flashing beacons for lighthouses. His subsequent invention of the sun-valve, which causes a beacon to light automatically at dusk and extinguish itself at dawn, enabled lighthouses to function perfectly and unattended for periods of up to a year. His invention of cylinder filled with a porous mass of asbestos and diatomaceous earth for storage of acetylene reduced considerably the hazards in handling this material and its use in welding became safe. He also invented a mixer for providing a constant and correct balance of gas and air for use in the incandescent mantle and a device for removing broken mantles and replacing them by new ones.

In 1912, whilst testing safety devices on cylinders of acetylene in an outdoor location, and when satisfactory safety precautions had been taken, a sudden explosion seriously injured Dalén and caused the loss of his eyesight. He recovered from his other injuries and overcoming his great incapacity, continued his researches. He was awarded the contract for lighting the Panama Canal and later turned to the field of thermal technics to invent a stove [the Aga cooker - ed], now in universal use, which maintains cooking heat for 24 hours using only eight pounds of coal.

Dalén's writings were few, but he left his mark in a practical way by the provision of light, and therefore safety, for the benefit of travellers by land, sea and air.

Amongst the many distinctions conferred upon Dalén are membership of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, 1913, and the Academy of Science and Engineering, 1919. He was made Honorary Doctor of Lund University in 1918 and received the Morehead Medal of the International Acetylene Association. He took part in debates at the National Society of Economics and served on the Lidingö City Council for almost twenty years.

Dalén married Elma Persson in 1901. They had two sons and two daughters. Their eldest son, Gunnar, qualified as an engineer and followed his father as a Director of AGA; their younger son, Anders, became a Doctor of Medicine; Gustaf's brother Albin, a famous ophthalmologist, was a Professor at the Caroline Institute.

Dalén died on December 9, 1937, in his villa at Lidingö.

Gustaf Dalen invented a light-sensitive valve (the sun valve), the Aga cooker, and the lighting for the Panama Canal, and founded the AGA AB chemical works company, amongst many other things.  Not a bad variety for a Nobel Physics Prize winning scientist eh?!  A whole menagerie of high-utility inventions from just man.

One of his inventions, the Aga cooker, is particularly pertinent at this time of year because of course we have Christmas fast approaching which means many needs have to be met including: Christmas dinner (which needs cooking), heating (which is provided for by a gas boiler), and hot water (for that long relaxing bath).

The Aga Rangemaster Group, which Dalen founded, is responsible for the Rayburn Range, which was an improvement on the Aga Cooker because of its high-utility value: It can heat food in pans; It can heat food (or other things) in ovens; It can heat water (e.g. for washing bodies or clothes or dishes, etc); It can heat water for use in radiators around the house; It can be powered by kerosene, diesel, biofuel, gas or electricity.  In short, it's a single household appliance that serves many many purposes.

This emphasis on high-utility is very different to the kitchen appliances of the 2010's where single-purpose appliances exist for pretty much every conceivable need.  e.g. the toaster for heating bread, an electric kettle for heating ~1 litre of water, an electric steamer for steaming vegetables, an electric deep fryer for chips and doughnuts, the electric grill plate, etc etc.  All quite expensive (~£30 per item) and all utterly superfluous if you own a simple, conventional oven and a basic few pots and pans.  And let's not forget that you will see many of these appliances advertised down the local shopping centre as Christmas gifts competing for your attention and hard earned cash.

High-utility appliances like the Aga and Rayburn are something to be thankful for because they save us time and effort and cut down on waste, particularly on superfluity.  It's something to think about when we are cooking our Christmas dinner in our warm houses.  And let's not forget that we have Gustaf Dalen to thank for it.


Monday 15 December 2014

Alternative Lyrics to Well Known Songs 34 - Pessimism Wants to Rule Your World

(Based on the song 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' by Tears for Fears)

Life comes first, death comes second.  Joy comes first, misery comes second.  Joy does not need misery, yet misery needs joy.  Misery is contingent upon joy (just as death is contingent upon life), and joy is not contingent upon anything.

Misery conspires to deny joy.  Be aware of those who seek to deny you joy.

The important thing to remember, to always remember, while reading anything by an old misery guts, a pessimist or a doom-sayer (like an armaggedon-loving Christian, or a proponent of toxic meme 'enjoy the decline' etc) is that they are miserable.  Because they are miserable they seek to deny joy to everyone, and that includes you.  To deny anyone joy, or even worse to deny the opportunity of joy, is immoral.  God provides/provided you with both 'Will' (which is concurrent with joy) and the 'Freedom' to do it in.

The pessimists and the doom-sayers want to deny you that ability to 'go your own way', to do your own thing, to do something other than what they say.  They want to determine your future 100%.  To nail it deep down underground as a prisoner, and keep it there.  They want to determine your future as railway-lines determine where a railway-locomotive goes, that's what they want to do.  They want to deny you freedom.  So shrug your shoulders at them, ignore them; or yell at them, fight them.  Do whatever you need to do to get them out of your way.  They're arseholes.  You don't need them.  They need you.  Life doesn't need death, joy doesn't need misery, you don't need them.  Always remember this.  Remember this if you stumble across them or their works; remember that they strive to deny you joy and then remember you have a options and the ability to choose, to go your own way, Gods way, whatever way that may be.  Each to his own.

Finally a word on the lyrics: They are written from the perspective of Pessimism as an entity, as an actual person, and it is speaking to someone who is a newcomer to Western culture.

Play the song in the video above and sing along using the alternative lyrics given below.

# Pessimism Wants to Rule Your World #
Welcome to the West.
It's not like it seems.
Everywhere you turn.
You will find me.

Sapping at your joyous outlook.
Confounding your positive nature.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.

It is by design.
It is for the worst.
I want to deny.
I want to destroy.

Your freedom and your pleasure,
I want to deny for ever.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.

There's no place where my hate won't find you.
Nagging away 'til your heart comes crashing down.
When it does I'll have destroyed you.

My goal's to incarcerate.
Trap you, never let you out.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.

I can't stand your optimism.
Nor your long-distance vision.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.
Hate is all I ever, ever, ever, ever needed.
Why did you have to ruin it?
Pessimism wants to rule the world.

Your freedom and your pleasure,
I want to deny for ever.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.


Friday 12 December 2014

Men of Yore: James Dewar

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Sir James Dewar

Sir James Dewar was born in Kincardine, Scotland, on September 20, 1842, the son of an innkeeper. He attended local schools until he was ten when he suffered a serious case of rheumatic fever lasting two years. During this period he built a violin, and music remained a lifelong interest of his. In 1858 he entered the University of Edinburgh. There he studied physics and chemistry. Dewar, in an early display of his dexterity, developed a mechanical model of Alexander Crum Brown's graphic notation for organic compounds. This was sent to Friedrich Kekulé in Ghent who then invited Dewar to spend some time in his laboratory.

After holding a number of chemical posts in Scotland, Dewar was appointed Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 1873, and four years later he was appointed Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution. He held both chairs concurrently, but spent most of his time in London. At Cambridge he collaborated with George Downing Liveing on an extensive spectroscopic study linking spectra with atomic and molecular states. This led to a very public disagreement with Norman Lockyer about the dissociation of matter in the Sun and stars. One of Dewar's chief characteristics was his ability to engage, at times, in quite vitriolic arguments with other scientists; Robert John Strutt, the fourth Lord Rayleigh wrote that to argue with Dewar was akin to being a fly in molasses.

At the Royal Institution, Dewar found himself at the intersection of major scientific networks involving the government and industry. He thus collaborated in the late 1880s with Frederick Abel on the invention of the explosive cordite. Nevertheless, at the Royal Institution Dewar focused almost entirely on cryogenics. In 1877 oxygen had been liquefied in France, and the following year Dewar demonstrated this for the first time in England at a lecture at the Royal Institution. New methods for obtaining low temperatures were developed in the 1880s, but Dewar's ability to take advantage of these methods was restricted by his not being fully in charge of the Royal Institution. However, after forcing John Tyndall's retirement in 1887, Dewar became the director of its laboratory. He improved low-temperature methods, especially by the application of the Joule–Thomson effect that produced much lower temperatures. Dewar had now turned his attention to hydrogen, which he could not liquefy even at the low temperatures obtainable.

In the mid-1890s Dewar was responsible for one of the most important developments in the history of the Royal Institution: the establishment and endowment of the Davy–Faraday Research Laboratory of the Royal Institution. This not only entailed the acquisition of a new building, but also the direct support of Dewar's cryogenic research. Success came in 1898 when he finally liquefied hydrogen. However, in the race with Heike Kamerlingh Onnes at the University of Leiden to liquefy helium, Dewar lost and the Nobel Prize went to Kamerlingh Onnes. Although Dewar was nominated several times, he never won the coveted prize.

One of the consequences of Dewar's work was his invention of the vacuum flask to minimize heat loss. It was expensive and time-consuming to liquefy gases; hence, Dewar designed a container where, once liquefied, gases could be kept for as long as possible. Still known as the Dewar flask among chemists, it is more widely known as the Thermos, named after the company that obtained the patent for the flask and to whom Dewar lost an ensuing court case.

Dewar's later work involved investigating the chemical and physical properties of substances at low temperatures, including low-temperature calorimetry. With the outbreak of the Great War (or World War I, 1914–1918), the laboratory at the Royal Institution lost most of its staff and Dewar turned his attention to soap bubbles. By the end of the war Dewar, now in his late seventies, did not have the energy to restart the laboratory, nor would he retire. He died on March 27, 1923, and his funeral service was held in the director's flat at the Royal Institution.


Question:  What connects superconductors (used in MRI scanners and mag-lev trains) with vacuum flasks (used by businessmen and old women)? 

Answer:  James Dewar.

If ever you hear anyone doubt that what all scientists produce is of little value to the average John Doe on an average day in an average city, then just think of James Dewar.  Think what his studies on liquification of gases have led to in terms of practical everyday inventions.  Think of what they have allowed us to do:
  • They have allowed us to travel on super-fast, super-smooth mag-lev trains to commute to work and back.
  • They have allowed us to have our brains scanned for signs of tumours & cancerous growths.
  • They allow us to sit at car-boot sales (or flea markets/swap meets) and sup hot cups of tea in the cold mid-Winter.
These are just a few mundane examples of what scientists beavering away in laboratories can achieve when their abstract findings are utilised in practical projects.  All that needs to be done is for both sides of the dualistic coin to be utilised (noos & phusis, abstract & practical, thinking & doing, or however you wish to phrase it) by men for whatever their Will is.


Monday 8 December 2014

Alternative Lyrics to Well Known Songs 33 - Left Wingers

(Based on the song 'Young Parisians' by Adam and the Ants)

This week we have a slightly sardonic song about those funky political Lefties and their attraction to all things un-attractive, written/sung from the perspective of a right-winger who lives in the countryside.

If you look at Lefties for long enough you begin to notice that their mindset tends towards things that are un-appealing and antagonistic to life in general: un-appealing to the eye (e.g. art of 'shark in a tank' Hirst or 'unmade bed' Emin), un-appealing to the ear (e.g. music of Schoenberg), antagonistic to family life (e.g. single-mother families and Communes/Kibbutzim), antagonistic to moderation (e.g. vulgarity of Hollywood movies and cosmetic surgeons), modern-architecture (e.g. the Guggenheim museum) and so on.  All in all they tend towards things that are excessive and un-appealing to humans.  Which is why so many of the political right, and those who are a-political, are repulsed by them.

But it's not enough to want to gouge your eyes out every time you see a Damien Hirst, or wail if you hear a Schoenberg, you have to be able to point and laugh at all of them every once in a while.  Getting indignant and stressed out every time you see some left-wing abomination may be useful, and certainly is, because the works (art, music, and anything produced) ARE an affront to decency and indeed to life itself, but it's no good for you personally.  Too much stress causes an increase in Cortisol production which in turn is responsible for increased risk of heart disease.  And men are suffering from enough stress as it is without adding to the pile.

Which is of course why this song is here: to poke fun at the lefties!  And to remind you to laugh at them every once in a blue moon.

A final word on the lyrics: The word 'queer' is used in the old English sense, as in 'odd or strange', rather than the modern usage of the word as 'homosexual'.  Though if you want to think of it in the modern sense, or even the pejorative sense, then that's entirely your prerogative.  I'm not implying that lefties are closet-homosexuals (like Lib-Dem politician Mark Oaten), or should be mocked, oh no, that would be wrong!

Play the song in the video above and sing along with the alternative lyrics given below.

# Left Wingers #
These left-wingers are so queer.
They love Tracey Emin.
These left-wingers are so queer.
All there art is c-rap.

I wanna go to-the city with you
just to see what the lefties do.
Why don't you come to the city with me
And chuckle at left-wingers.

These left-wingers are so queer.
Listening to Schoenberg.
These left-wingers are so queer.
Not like me and you

I wanna go to-the city with you
just to see what the lefties do.
Why don't you come to-the city with me
And chuckle at left-wingers.

I wanna go to-the city with you
just to see what the lefties do to you.
Why don't you come to-the city with me
And chuckle at left-wingers.

These left-wingers are so queer.
They live in a commune.
These left-wingers are so queer.
It drives them insane.

I wanna go to-the city with you
just to see what the lefties do to you.
Why don't you come to-the city with me
And chuckle at left-wingers.

They're so queer.
They're so queer.
They're so queer.
Ah oooh!


Saturday 6 December 2014

Men of Yore: The Complete List

(This page is here to enable people to browse through the various 'Men of Yore' posts more easily than just clicking on the 'Men of Yore' label on the right hand side of the blog, which shows entire posts rather than just hyperlinks.   It is a generous contribution from 'Slovenian Guest' who has been kind enough to provide links to all of the posts in the 'Men of Yore' series.  I'll try to make sure that the list is kept up to date, and that new Men of Yore posts are entered weekly.   Thanks again Slovenian Guest!)

This is intended to be a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

It is also partly intended to show images, be they paintings, statues or photographs of the countenances of men of yore. Because, quite frankly, many men wear the countenances of women these days: smiling, smirking, cooing, rolling their eyes, looking smug etc. It's a sign of the times, and by showing some images of men from the past, I hope to show some modern men why looking surly, frowning and giving hard-ball stares at people is something to do, something to practise.

Stephen Harding
Hippolyte Mege-Mouries
Robert Bakewell
Guillaume-Henri Dufour
Sir Robert Peel
Christopher Sholes
Oliver Evans
Phillip Bozzini
Arthur Hill Hassall
George Auguste Leschot
Norman Borlaug
John Smeaton
Thomas Davenport
Charles Martin Hall
Robert Randall
Freidrich Koenig
Carl Bosch
Rowland Hill
Ludwig van Beethoven
Dominique Larrey
Tiberius Gracchus
Pavel Schilling
Richard Chancellor
Henry Cavendish
James Simpson
Thomas Young
George Stephenson
John Hunyadi
Raud the Strong
Samuel Herne
Georgius Agricola
Abel Tasman
Hugo Grotius
Henri Nestle
William Ewart
Humphry Davy
Nicephore Niepce
Howard Hughes
Alexander Bell
Carl Wilhelm Scheele
Joseph Cyril Bamford
Barthélemy Thimonnier
Gustaf Dalén
Sir James Dewar
Adrian Carton de Wiart
John Blashford-Snell
Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard
Leo Gradwell
Max Himmelheber
Richard Buckminster Fuller
Nikolai Benardos
Joseph Aspdin
Peter Henlein
Robert Hooke
Jean Piaget
John Fitch
Linus Yale Jr
Michael Joseph Owens
John James Sainsbury
Thomas McKey
John Laird
Tycho Brahe
Louis-Nicholas Robert
Alan Turing
John Loudon McAdam
Robert Goddard
Jacques Piccard
Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir
John Wilkinson
William Henry Perkin
Rudolf Steiner
Thomas Wakley
Guglielmo Marconi
Frank Whittle
Alexander the Second of Russia
John Wilkins
Roald Amundsen
Joseph Rowntree
Alexander Parkes
Roman von Ungern-Sternberg
Henry Louis Mencken
Archibal Belaney
Ignaz Semmelweiss
John Rae
Thomas Brassey
Jean-Francois Champollion
Alfred Russel Wallace
Meister Eckhart
John Cowperthwaite
Joseph Whitworth
Nicholas of Cusa
Nicolas Appert
Edward Jenner
Eli Whitney
Karl Benz
Henry Bessemer
David Thompson
Malcom MacLean
Richard Francis Burton
Robert Stevenson
Pierre-Paul Riquet
John Deere
Ambroise Pare
Diogenes of Sinope
Samuel Colt
Joseph Bazalgette
Franz Achard
Daniel Boone
Philo Farnsworth
Gregor Mendel
James Cook
Titus Salt
Tadeusz Kosciuszko
John Rarey
Stephen III of Moldavia
George Petrovich
Vlad the Impaler
King Alfred the Great
John MacDouall Stuart
Robert Owen
Richard Trevithick
Wyatt Earp
William Cody
Andrew Carnegie
Duke of Viseu
Meriwether Lewis
Arthur Schopenhauer
Theodore Roosevelt
Rudolph Diesel
John Snow
Ludwig van Beethoven
Henry Ford
George Custer


Friday 5 December 2014

Men of Yore: Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, 1919 (aged 39)

Early Life
Carton de Wiart was born into an aristocratic family in Brussels, on 5 May 1880, eldest son of Leon Constant Ghislain Carton de Wiart (1854–1915). By his contemporaries, he was widely believed to be an illegitimate son of the King of the Belgians, Leopold II.[6] He spent his early days in Belgium and in England.

The death of his Irish mother when he was six prompted his father to move the family to Cairo so his father could practise international law. His father was a court magistrate, well connected in Egyptian governmental circles, and was a director of the Cairo Electric Railways. Carton de Wiart was a Roman Catholic. He learned to speak Arabic.

In 1891 his English stepmother sent him to a boarding school in England, the Roman Catholic Oratory School, founded by Cardinal John Henry Newman.

From there he went to Balliol College, Oxford, but left to join the British Army at the time of the Boer War around 1899, where he entered under the false name of "Trooper Carton", and claimed to be 25 years old.

Boer War
Carton de Wiart was wounded in the stomach and groin in South Africa early on in the War and invalided home, and his father found out about him leaving college. His father was furious but allowed his son to remain in the army. After another brief period at Oxford, where Aubrey Herbert was among his friends, he was given a commission in the Second Imperial Light Horse. He saw action in South Africa again and on 14 September 1901 was given a regular commission as a second lieutenant in the 4th Dragoon Guards.[7] Carton de Wiart was transferred to India in 1902. He enjoyed sports, especially shooting and pig sticking.

Character, Interests and Life in the Edwardian Army
Carton de Wiart's serious wound in the Boer War instilled in him a strong desire for physical fitness and he ran, jogged, walked, and played sports on a regular basis. In male company he was 'a delightful character and must hold the world record for bad language.'[8]

After his regiment was transferred to South Africa he was promoted to supernumerary lieutenant in July 1904[9] and appointed an aide-de-camp to the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Henry Hildyard the following July. He describes this period lasting up to 1914 as his "heyday".[10] His light duties as aide-de-camp gave him time for polo, another of his interests.

By 1907, although Carton de Wiart had now served in the British Army for eight years, he had remained a Belgian subject. On 13 September, he took the oath of allegiance to Edward VII and was formally naturalised as a British subject.[1]

Carton de Wiart was well connected in European circles, his two closest cousins being Count Henri Carton de Wiart, Prime Minister of Belgium from 1920 to 1921, and Baron Edmond Carton de Wiart, political secretary to the King of Belgium and director of La Société Générale de Belgique. While on leave, he travelled extensively throughout central Europe, using his Catholic aristocratic connections to shoot at country estates in Bohemia, Austria, Hungary and Bavaria.

Following his return to England, he rode with the famous Duke of Beaufort's Hunt where he met, among others, the future field marshal, Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, and the future air marshal, Sir Edward Leonard Ellington. He was promoted to captain in February 1910.[11]

In 1908 he married Countess Friederike Maria Karoline Henriette Rosa Sabina Franziska Fugger von Babenhausen (1887 Klagenfurt – 1949 Vienna), eldest daughter of Karl Ludwig, 4th Fürst (Prince) Fugger-Babenhausen and Princess Eleonora Fugger von Babenhausen of Klagenfurt, Austria. They had two daughters, the elder of whom Anita (born 1909, deceased) was the maternal grandmother of the war correspondent Anthony Loyd (born 1966).

In his memoirs, Happy Odyssey, Carton de Wiart makes no reference to his wife or to his daughters.


His college career was marked by a conspicuous lack of success in examinations, and he ran away later that year and enlisted (under a false name and age) in Paget's horse, a newly raised, independent regiment. ‘Trooper Carton’ was severely wounded fighting the Boers and, his real identity revealed, he returned to Balliol in 1900, but he did not complete his studies there. He went back to South Africa with the Imperial light horse, and in 1901 obtained a regular commission in the 4th dragoon guards. After service in India (1902–4), he became aide-de-camp to Sir Henry Hildyard, commander-in-chief, South Africa (1904–8). At Vienna in 1908 he married Countess Frederica, eldest daughter of Prince Fugger-Babenhausen of Klagenfurt and his wife, Nora, Princess Hohenlohe; they had two daughters. From 1910 to 1914 he was adjutant of a yeomanry unit, the Royal Gloucestershire hussars. In the summer of 1914 he was attached to the camel corps in Somaliland, in operations against Mohammed bin Abdullah. In November he was wounded in an eye, which had to be removed; his black eye-patch was thereafter a distinguishing feature. He was appointed to the DSO, and joined the 4th dragoon guards in the trenches near Ypres.

Carton de Wiart's career in the First World War was legendary. Severely wounded eight times, he lost his left hand, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action on the Somme in which he assumed command of 57 brigade of 19th division during the capture and defence of La Boiselle (3–4 July 1916). He subsequently commanded in succession the 12th, 105th, and 113th infantry brigades. He ended the war a brigadier-general. After the armistice he was appointed second-in-command of the British military mission to Poland, succeeding to the command on the death of General Louis Botha in 1919. He was involved in the widespread fighting, including the battle of Warsaw against the Bolsheviks, but had little influence over the course of the Polish–Soviet war. Indeed, Carton de Wiart was embarrassed by the Lloyd George government's off-hand attitude towards the Poles. In 1924 he resigned his commission, and spent the rest of the inter-war years happily shooting duck in the Pripet marshes in Poland, from a house there lent to him by Prince Charles Radziwill, his last Polish aide-de-camp. He was summoned back to England in July 1939, and was asked to resume his old mission to Poland. Unhappily for him, Carton de Wiart found himself reprising his role of the early 1920s, acting as the representative of a state friendly towards Poland but unwilling or unable to offer any immediate military aid. He had strong disagreements with the Polish commander-in-chief, Marshal Smigly-Rydz. With the Polish forces defeated by the invading Germans, Carton de Wiart returned to England by way of Romania and was given command of the 61st (territorial) division. In April 1940 he was appointed to command, as lieutenant-general, the central Norwegian expeditionary force. He failed to capture Namsos, but skilfully extracted his force, emerging from the disastrous campaign with his stock high with Churchill.

In April 1941 Carton de Wiart was dispatched to form a British military mission in Yugoslavia, but his aircraft was shot and came down in the sea, and he became a prisoner of the Italians. Held with other senior officers at Sulmona and the Castello di Vincigliati at Fiesole, he was at once busy with attempts to escape. With Lieutenant-General Richard O'Connor, on one occasion he eluded recapture for eight days, no small achievement given Carton de Wiart's distinctive appearance. In August 1943 the Italians dispatched Carton de Wiart to Lisbon to act as an intermediary in the negotiations which led to Italy's withdrawal from the war in the following month.

In October 1943 Churchill sent Carton de Wiart, as a lieutenant-general, as his personal representative to Chiang Kai-shek in China. The rest of the war he spent in Chungking (Chongqing), where he could do little to resist the erosion of British power in the face of increasing American power in the region. He attended the Cairo conference in November–December 1943, and in December 1944 made a personal report to the cabinet on the situation in the Far East. His dismissive view of Mao Zedong and the Chinese communists revealed the shallowness of his grasp of Chinese politics. He eventually retired to England in 1946, having broken his back in Rangoon en route. He was appointed KBE in 1945, was elected an honorary fellow of Balliol in 1957, and held an honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, as well as many foreign decorations.

Carton de Wiart's wife died in 1949, and on 18 July 1951 he married (Ruth Myrtle Muriel) Joan (b. 1903/4), daughter of George McKechnie and divorced wife of Arthur Henry Carr Sutherland. They settled at Aghinagh House, Killinardrish, co. Cork, where he continued his tireless pursuit of snipe and salmon. He died there on 5 June 1963.

With his black eye-patch and empty sleeve, Carton de Wiart looked like an elegant pirate, and became a figure of legend. In 1916 Cynthia Asquith called him ‘the hero of the war’ (Diaries, 244), and Evelyn Waugh based the figure of Ritchie-Hook in his Sword of Honour trilogy on Carton de Wiart. His autobiography, Happy Odyssey (1950), gives something of the flavour of the man. He was quick-tempered and modest, omitting any mention of his decorations from his autobiography, and he loathed humbug and meanness. Carton de Wiart was a battlefield leader in the most literal sense, rather than a commander or a diplomat. It was ironic that much of his post-1918 career was concerned with quasi-diplomatic roles for which he was neither well-suited nor well-qualified, and in which he was not particularly successful. In the view of one historian, he was ‘almost as politically naive as he was brave’ (Thorne, 560).

As Guest, the commentor who kindly recommended de Wiart to me, said he "has the honor of having the best opening paragraph on Wikipedia".  No mean feat!

De Wiart was more a man of action than of contemplation, much like the 'Mad Baron' Ungern-Sternberg, who like de Wiart failed miserably in the academic world (at the elite Naval Cadet Corps, he racked-up no less than twenty-five disciplinary charges).  It seems that the action and rote-learning are not always compatable.  It might also be why boys are doing worse at school than girls at present (despite the efforts of teachers to drug them into compliance with Ritalin), because they are more like Carton de Wiart inasmuch as they tend more towards action than towards rote-learning.