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Periodic Table of Nottingham


Nottingham element: Colonel Shaw

Living 100 years is an achievement in itself, but perhaps more important is what use is made of that time.

Few people can have had a more active and fulfilling 100 years than Brian Shaw. Born on 10 February 1898 in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, he began his career in 1914 as an Apprentice Pharmacist at Boots the Chemists, in Eastwood.

In 1915 he became a student teacher in Ilkeston and joined the University College Nottingham Officers' Training Corps. By February 1916 he had enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters T.A. and was transferred to the 2/5th Battalion South Staffs.

During the First World War he became a Designated Marksman and fought on the Somme (1917), Cambrai (1917) and at Passchendaele (1917-1918). In July 1917 Cpl. Shaw was awarded the Military Medal for bravery at Beaucamp near Cambrai. In 1918 Shaw was commissioned in the 3rd battalion Lincs, subsequently being seconded to the newly formed RAF for pilot training. The War over, he enrolled as a full time student at University College, Nottingham.

Graduating with a 1st Class Honours Chemistry Degree in 1922, he remained at Nottingham to carry out research with Professor F. S. Kipping before being appointed as a Lecturer in Chemistry at East London College. However, his stay in London was short and, by 1923, he had been appointed to a Lectureship at Nottingham where he continued his research and obtained his PhD in 1927. University College became the University of Nottingham in 1948 and Shaw remained on the staff, ultimately as Senior Lecturer until 1965. That might be the full story, but of course it is not.

From 1925 to 1955 his marksmanship won him many prizes at competitive shooting events including the 1950 King's Medal (Bisley) for Champion Shot in the T.A. Shaw retained his military connections commanding a Company of the 5th Sherwood Foresters T.A. from 1928 to 1939, being promoted Captain in 1929 and Major in 1935. During the Second World War he commanded the 1/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters in France and saw action at the defence of the River Bresle, east of Dieppe. He was left behind after Dunkirk and spent from June to September 1940 in hiding before being captured near Poitiers while attempting to escape to Spain. From 1940 to 1945, he was a prisoner in no less than five POW camps. Following his release and return to Nottingham he remained Officer Commanding the University Training Corps until 1954. However, it was the combination of his military expertise and academic knowledge which would lead him to international fame.

Scientific element: Caesium

A silvery-gold, soft metal, it is the most alkaline element on Earth. 

Cesium was discovered by Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff in 1860.

Its name, which is Latin for "sky blue," comes from the blue emission lines it gives off in spectroscopy.

One of its most important uses is in the ‘caesium clock’ (atomic clock). These clocks are a vital part of the internet and mobile phone networks, as well as Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites.

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