It's two years since my gaffer from grad school left us bereft. As a child he had a couple of near-death experiences doing daft boy-things: crushed pelvis when he fell off the running board of a running truck and fell under the rear wheel; left hand blown to ribbons when one of his bombs exploded prematurely. That sort of thing happens much less rarely nowadays because kids are glued to their devices rather than out testing the reality of the world. No matter how graphic the graphics, nobody dies in Grand Kill Zombie Apocalypse IV. I suggest that this is a Bad Thing; early experimentation teaches care and attention and a handiness with physical things. We need 'a good pair of hands'; we need a lot of them indeed if we're to have a future as a technological nation. It's not going to happen if we protect children too much from making mistakes. Robin McKie has a passionate polemic about this quoting from his own experience of blowing up his bedroom and Alec "DNA fingerprinting" Jeffries growing a beard to hide the burns on his face.
Today is also the birthday of Robert "Burner" Bunsen, unless it isn't: he was definitely born in March 1811 but not even he was sure if it was the 30th or 31st. No matter, he grew up when Chemistry was at its most exciting. The first synthesis of an organic compound (urea) was carried out in 1828 and Bunsen grew up into a world where everything was waiting to be discovered. Nowadays 500 new compounds are being developed described and named every week; but it's not possible for a teenager to make a wholly novel contribution; the frontiers have moved away from a cupboard in a bedroom. Wolfram maintains that the frontier is present for youngsters in the world of big data. But that's not direct 'good pair of hands' reality. Bunsen's career was notably peripatetic: born a son of the chief librarian at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, he held faculty positions in Göttingen, Kassel, Marburg, Breslau, and Heidelberg. Nobody doubted that he was smart - he was awarded his PhD at the age of 19! - but he was also notable for the rich network of collaborators and correspondents that he built up. He was famous for the quality of his teaching and his students, including the dreadful Fritz Haber, loved him.
effective antidote to arsenic poisoning.