In October 1954 I arrived at King's College, London, as the new professor of applied mathematics. In a small department with a small research group, the choice of topic for myself and my closest colleagues was clearly crucial. I felt it had to be a subject not widely pursued at the time because we could not compete with the big battalions.

Having already had some interest in the theory of gravitation and having at London C.W. Kilmister, with F.A.E. Pirani soon to follow me from Cambridge, the choice of general relativity and gravitation as a topic was fairly obvious. Work on various problems began that winter but was not particularly focused.

In June 1955 I was pleased to be invited to what turned out to be a superb conference in Berne to celebrate 50 years since special relativity. The conference, organized by An-the Mercier and chaired by Wolfgang Pauli, was...

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