Childhood & Education

A Young Barnes Wallis

On 26th September 1887, Barnes Neville Wallis was born in Ripley, Derbyshire, the second son of Charles Wallis and Edith Ashby. Wallis was one of four children, an elder John and two younger siblings, Annie and Charles. When Barnes was two the family moved to New Cross Road in London where Charles Wallis was a doctor, but in 1893 he contracted poliomyelitis (polio) which left him crippled. Charles continued with his career on a solid-wheeled tricycle but was deeply affected by his disability. During his early childhood, Barnes and his brother John spent many hours in a workshop in their house making whatever they could and were known to make toy structures out of paper for Annie to play with.

Barnes and his brother John were nominated by Colonel Newcombe to take the competitive entrance exam for a scholarship at Christ’s Hospital in Horsham; a public school founded in 1552. Despite Barnes coming from a moderately comfortable middle-class family, his father could not afford to send them both to public school. Barnes came seventh out of 110 boys and received his place at Christ’s Hospital and proved a natural at Mathematics, English and Science. By the end of his education in 1904, Barnes had decided that he wanted to leave school and ‘get his hands dirty’ by pursuing an apprenticeship in engineering.

Philosophy Of Barnes Wallis’ Life

“I have found that the more opposition and the more criticism that one gets, the more one has to perfect one’s idea in putting it forward and half the joy in life consists in the fight not in the subsequent success… I think you have got to be tough. I think you have got to express your opinions definitely and firmly but I don’t say it follows that you’re always right. You first do all your own thinking and then you find out what other people have thought and you will find generally that you have thought of something quite original that nobody had thought of before. And in a way you know, the less you know about the subject the better you are qualified to introduce original ideas. I think it’s the essence of arriving at something new”