World War II had a major impact on the scientific careers of many of my generation. Among the more striking effects were those that converted biologists into radar engineers and in some measure contributed to the post-war flourishing of biophysics. For me the influence was less dramatic, but nevertheless drew me into areas that have remained among my major scientific interests.

A few days after war broke out I arrived in Oxford with a Ramsay Fellowship to work with R.P (Ronnie) Bell on acid-base catalysis. I had just spent a year with Prof. (later ,Lord) Wynne-Jones at University College, Dundee, where I had developed an interest in the thermodynamics of acid-base equilibria (and found early evidence for what later was called the “hydrophobic effect”).

Honnie Bell set me to work on the bromination of as-dichloroacetone. The first step was to prepare this powerful lachrymator in the highly unsuitable conditions...

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