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A scientist from the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), Berkshire has been nominated for an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, for his almost 60-year service to the UK’s nuclear deterrent programme.
Since 1957 Brian Lambourn has worked at the AWE Aldermaston, or the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) as it was known before the 80s. Brian graduated with a degree in physics from Birmingham University in 1953 and joined AWE in April 1957 to work on the effects of shock waves in materials.
Together with others his work has brought theoretical insight into the exacting world of shock wave dynamics, which underlies so much of the physics that underpins nuclear warhead safety. Brian has an international reputation as an expert on equations of state for explosives and detonation propagation.
Of his career at AWE Brian said: “AWE has shaped my life in many ways, professionally and personally. I am greatly honoured to receive this award, it feels like the pinnacle of my career. It enhances the pleasure of having worked at AWEfor so long with so many highly accomplished people.”
Graeme Nicholson AWE Director of Programme said: “I was delighted to learn that Brian Lambourn had been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. This award is richly deserved as his contributions to the challenging scientific fields of hydrodynamics and shock physics over fifty nine years’ at AWE is both immense and unprecedented. I hope that Brian and his family enjoy a wonderful day at the palace when he is invested with his award later this year.”
Brian has witnessed huge changes throughout his 59 years, almost six decades, at AWE.
He said: “When I started in AWRE in 1957, the world was different. One major difference, which I am very glad has changed, was that it was a man’s world. Much less than 1% of the middle and senior staff were women. One of them was the manager of the housing department. In those days there were AWRE housing estates in Tadley, Baughurst, Basingstoke, Newbury and Reading. To apply to rent one of the houses you had an interview with this rather daunting lady, especially difficult if you had rejected the first house you were offered!”
Brian continued: “In those days each area had one or more messengers to take round the post. We also had a tea lady, who brought a tea trolley, with cakes, around at 10.30am and 3pm. Your grade determined whether you shared, or had your own office, the type of desk (single or double pedestal), the size of the carpet, if any, (a strip, a carpet with a gap around the outside or a fitted carpet), and whether you had a hat stand. How times have changed! However it worked, because you respected the technical abilities of your leaders and aspired to get promotion, so that you could get a bigger desk! The one thing that hasn’t altered is the nature of doing research. The tools have changed, but the joy of suddenly understanding something that you have long been studying, is still just as great. It compensates for all the hard work that is necessary between the moments of joy.”
Brian (84), who still works two days-a-week at AWE, lives in Tadley.