Framed by a Smoking Gun: The Explosive Life of Colonel B D Shaw


  • Format: Paperback
  • Publication Date: 28/07/2019

In stock


Chemist, Soldier and Lecturer, this biography examines the explosive life of Colonel Brian Duncan Shaw (1898-1999).

Generations of chemistry students were captivated by B D Shaw’s maverick and humorous approach to chemistry lecturing. His use of Very pistols and a Crimean War musket to demonstrate the power of explosives betrayed his parallel career in the Territorial Army. It was easy to divert him from the mechanisms of chemical reactions to tales of Prisoner of War camps in World War II, though modesty kept him from bragging about his World War I Military Medal. He found fame on the BBC Two’s Horizon and continued to demonstrate explosives worldwide to the age of 92.

This book draws on a wealth of primary sources including photographs, scripts, recorded interviews, and a treasure-trove of letters written from the POW camps to loved ones in his home towns of Nottingham and Ilkeston. B D Shaw’s story is a celebration of his joint passions for chemistry and rifle shooting, and of his devotion to explaining the science of explosives to the world. His wholehearted and life-long commitment to the causes he supported was extraordinary and he was held in great affection by the Territorial Army, the University of Nottingham, his Rifle Clubs and his Masonic Lodges. His zest for life kept him involved to the end – his 100th birthday celebrations went off with a bang, and he came close to causing a posthumous explosion with the discovery of his secret attic laboratory.

Clare E Wilkes lives in Cambridge. She has a degree and PhD from the School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham and spent six years as a journals editor with the Royal Society of Chemistry. Clare is currently working in the field of chemistry education and assessment and was lucky enough to be a steward at B D Shaw’s 100th birthday event, which was where she took an interest in his fascinating career.


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