A Victim Of His Own Invention


Sir Robert Watson-Watt was a Scottish physicist and a proponent of radio direction finding and radar technology. His ideas were credited for the defeat of more than a quarter of German U-boats and subsequently enabled the Royal Air Force to win the Battle of Britain in 1941.

Several years later, he was pulled over by a Canadian police officer for overspeeding. The officer was ironically using a radar gun. His wife attempted to point out the ridiculousness of the situation, but the officer replied that it didn’t matter since he broke the law. So, they were fined $12.50 for the violation.

Watson-Watt recounted the incident with the following verse he titled “A Rough Justice”:

Pity Sir Robert Watson-Watt,
strange target of this radar plot

And thus, with others I can mention,
the victim of his own invention.

His magical all-seeing eye
enabled cloud-bound planes to fly

but now by some ironic twist
it spots the speeding motorist

and bites, no doubt with legal wit,
the hand that once created it.

Oh Frankenstein who lost control
of monsters man created whole,

with fondest sympathy regard
one more hoist with his petard.

As for you courageous boffins
who may be nailing up your coffins,

particularly those whose mission
deals in the realm of nuclear fission,

pause and contemplate fate’s counter plot
and learn with us what’s Watson-Watt.


Traffic Digest and Review, Vol. 11, 1963

Posted by

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is edmarklaw@learnfunfacts.com

17 thoughts on “A Victim Of His Own Invention

  1. At least he could heat about it afterward. I wonder how many inventors have ever had such experiences with their inventions, i.e. momentary regrets about making them. Relating to his reference to nuclear fission, do the inventors of the atom bomb have regrets?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Of all the details that compel attention, that $12.50 fine is high on the list. The exchange rate hardly matters. The base fine for speeding in Texas today (1-10 miles over) is $200 and change.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Considering that this happened more than half a century ago, the fines those days may be a lot lower. Maybe someone from Canada who knows more can chime in…

      Well, in Hong Kong, if you overspeed by 15 kph or less, the fine is only 320 HKD or around 40 USD.

      Liked by 1 person

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