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Review of 'JAMES CLERK MAXWELL: Faith, Church and Physics' by Bruce Ritchie

Review by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 6th April 2024


From every point of view, this must be one of the best books ever published by Hansel Press. It is 474 pages, 31 chapters, well structured, with an index and a bibliography full of papers, 15 of them by T.F. Torrance. There are footnotes on nearly every page, the ideal place for them. Comparing it to the earlier biography by Ivan Tolstoy, this is 184 pages, each of them containing about half the content of Ritchie's. There is no comparison: Tolstoy's is a trifling morsel. Neither book deals with the mathematics of the various Maxwell Equations, which nowadays appear in vector form, involve differential operators like Del which Ritchie reasonably gives Heaviside credit for the excellence of the vector, Del cross product form which has reduced them to four very simple equations. However, the Del differential Operator was a creation of Sir William Hamilton, Maxwell's professor at Edinburgh before he went on to Trinity, Cambridge for the Tripos in 1854.

Maxwell's faith was deep, ingrained one might even say: it made of him a very kind, quiet, gentle person - no sort of dominating, energy-projecting professor.

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Tolstoy, Wittgenstein and God

Reviews by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 29th September 2023


War and Peace, I first read when I was about 13 in three days and nights. I have read it again since several times. The best edition now is the Oxford. Get the hardback edited by Amy Mandelkar, a little known and probably very young American Associate Professor, for this edition is markedly different from the early one: Tolstoy had been changing it in very surprising ways, his right, as the author. This edition has the translation of all the French on the same page which occupies about 2% of the whole book. The editor would be carefully chosen: a very able scholar. But the book I am most interested in here is different: The Gospel in Brief by Tolstoy, his very short book about the Gospels, written by him because he believed that the Gospels (as provided, after years of interference by enthusiasts down the centuries that followed the crucifixion) had led to the presentation of religion and the church as very different from what Jesus wanted. What was it Jesus actually taught? Tolstoy asked himself. That is what Christianity is truly about, what matters most, not the rules, regulations, habits and customs acquired by the texts over centuries. Tolstoy thought that Paul had not understood the teachings of Jesus and thus every addition to the biblical record made after the death of Jesus was mistaken. Only the reports made by the apostles up to that time should count…

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Review of 'The American Prometheus: J.R. Oppenheimer' by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin

Review by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 5th September 2023


An intellectual (one interested in ideas) has a passion for books. A few are very important to him. Newton's Optics (1704) was my chosen school science prize, aged about 16. It was in the English of the time (unlike Principia Mathematica which was in Latin). A year later I read two volumes of The Origin of Species by Darwin and, because the evidence was so compelling and I was heading in the direction of mathematical-physics, I did not need to read the third. But, years later, I was enthralled by Never at Rest, a biography of Newton by Richard S. Westfall*. Why? Because it is so complete that you know what it felt like to be Newton.

This is why this book by Bird and Sherwin is so important to me. His friends, his schooling, his oddities, his naivety, truthfulness (when he might have defended his conduct more easily). Oppenheimer struggles with shyness yet becomes a remarkable leader of hundreds of scientists building the first atomic bomb. From the outset, his was a very rich, quickfire mind which instantly saw objections and possibilities. He inherited a spectacular gift for languages: fluent in Latin, Greek, French, German, Dutch, Italian and Sanskrit as well as English…

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Review of 'The Collaborator' by Gerald Seymour (2009)

Review by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 29th July 2023


Gerald has published twenty-five books, many of which I have enjoyed. In this one, which I think the best, he has achieved what every novelist should aim for: a very different move we have not seen before. Here, he deals with the powerful families who control territories in Italy, act outside the law and maintain their power and influence by criminality, lying, ruthlessness, extortion, protection and superb organisation. Every happening, every event in their territory, is witnessed by a large team of children, employed specially, and developed in time, into full time operatives for their many criminal acts in a wide range of business interests.

Gerald has revealed to us how this criminal society operates and why it is so often successful in its fight with the Police and other forces ranged against them. Killing in the street is common and is aided and abetted by the population who seem to prefer the power of the family to the authority of the state. Power is venerated; and murder of anyone opposing the family is taken to be natural.

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Two important books, one exceptional: in a class all by itself

Reviews by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 12th June 2023


'Plato of Athens'

Published by Oxford University Press

This is by Robin Waterfield, an independent scholar and translator who lives in southern Greece. It is a revelation. Socrates, Plato and the many dialogues he wrote about Socrates is an intellectual achievement beyond any other. Newton's Principia Mathematica and Einstein's papers are rightly celebrated as historic advances that changed our understanding of the world. War and Peace, Middlemarch and Barchester Towers are works of literature that will be read and loved as long there are readers to enjoy them.

But, without Socrates, Plato was nothing. Socrates would not have been put to death by the fledgling Athenian democracy (in 399 BCE), an act of barbarism by the ruling 400, in spite of Socrates' brilliant defence of his position. He was accused of offending the gods and corrupting the young. The men who brought the charges were put up to it by superior people who had argued with Socrates in the Agora and been shown up to be ignorant by comparison. Yet Socrates never set himself above other men. He was humble and polite and would ask questions of 'the great man', often a sophist, a professional teacher who would define words like justice, goodness, the meaning of life, the best form of government, how to be a good ruler, have we free will?… only to find that under the polite questioning of this little bearded, old man the analysis (a process known as the elenchus) would lead to the conclusion that the sophist did not know what he was talking about.

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Our King

by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 11th May 2023


I watched the coronation on TV for about six hours and was riveted. It brought the country together, the 20 million at least who saw it.

This country has evolved over the centuries. We cut the head off one king and thought better of it. Every monarch since has evolved gradually through the years of empire that were, by and large, a beneficial action educating, leading and inspiring the native peoples absorbed until, when they were ready, the were accorded independence and took their places in the commonwealth, becoming our friends thereafter, knowing they could apply for help and would receive it.

I saw this for myself about 25 years ago, after I had written some articles published in The Herald (one of them a Herald Essay entitled: Redefining God, on 20.7.96). Suddenly, out of the blue, I received a letter from someone in, I think, Trinidad. The man was on death row, he had seen my name in a newspaper and asked me to help him. As I learned later, he had written to everyone he could in search of help.

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Reflections on a pilgrimage

by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 27th January 2023


I see now, after a well-defined pilgrimage of 33 years, that it has been far longer. It must have begun soon after The Reith Lectures in 1947 of Sir Fred Hoyle, joint author of the Steady State Theory with Samuel Gold and Sir Hermann Bondi, [in his flat in Trinity St Cambridge, as his wife, Christine, once confirmed: she was taught by GH Hardy, the great mathematician of Trinity College, whom many thought the best in the world]. That would put the beginning about when I started on Euclid.

About ten years later, philosophy became a passion and Richard Hamilton, Professor of Education, invited me to the Gifford Lectures. For about forty years he and I attended the series in Edinburgh together, afterwards walking the streets in constant talk until about four in the morning. I remember especially the series with 4 lecturers c1970: Anthony J. Kenny, Jesuit trained philosopher, C. H. Waddington, the chemist who had known Wittgenstein very well, Christopher Longuert-Higgins, a Royal Society Fellow I was to meet again, later at the University of Sussex and A. R. Lucas, a theologian. Each gave a lecture with the others afterwards replying to it. Lucas, I recall, spoke about Godel's Theorem which was so surprising that I soon found a book on it, could prove it myself and showed it to my ablest students.

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Review of 'Marshall Hall' by Sally Smith, KC (2016)

Review by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 10th January 2023


Sir Edward Marshall Hall, KC, MP has been called the greatest advocate. In an age (1883-1927) when people could still be tried for murder and hanged, he saved more of them than anyone else. Time after time, he stood up alone in the most intimidating circumstances - a court crammed with spectators, counsel, judges - when a case seemed hopeless, because the press had already circulated 'their' version of events, having interrogated and paid witnesses for their stories. People came from all over the world because they had read about it beforehand and were fascinated. Time and time again, Marshall got an acquittal. He became the darling of the people, famous beyond all others in courts. Newspapers were full of his doings.

How did he manage this? What original moves did he make? These are the issues which compel our attention, for, if we understand them, we can increase our own advocacy skills and, following Aristotle's belief [about democracy requiring the activity of the governed], have a greater effect upon our own world. To read his 'Politics' is a humbling experience. You can imagine it written last year. Get the OUP version.

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Review of 'Serious Minds: the History of the Haldanes' by Richard McLauchlan (2022)

Review by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 2nd January 2023


This book, by Richard McLauchlan of Haddington, is one of the most important I ever came across in several decades close involvement with education in many fields. Yet it is all new to me. That should be impossible, surrounded here by 200 yards of shelves, until Magnus Linklater's article in The Times a week ago.

The family origins are in the 15th century. Two Haldanes living near Gleneagles, are knighted and killed in battles at Flodden (1513) and Dunbar (1650). But the family of special interest begins when Robert Haldane of Cloan, a farmhouse near Auchterarder, married Mary Burdon Sanderson, his second wife, a well-connected English woman whose father won the Newdigate poetry Prize at Oxford, was a fellow of Oriel (1813), included some Lord Mayors and an estate with a colliery near Newcastle. Mary's great uncle was Earl of Eldon, Lord Chancellor (1801-1806 and 1807-1827). Her father, Richard Burdon Sanderson, 'never knew what fear was': educated out of him p15. Unable to reconcile his religion with the practices of his profession he resigned both his Secretaryship and his Commissionership in Bankruptcy. As Mary reflected, 'my father was not one to flinch, even if the sacrifice cost him almost his life.' Lord Eldon, hearing the news, did not come out of his room for three days. R B Sanderson suffered so badly that his family moved to Tunbridge Wells to regroup. Mary's younger brother John Burdon Sanderson became an FRS and Professor of Physiology at Oxford.

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Review of 'William Pitt The Younger' by William Hague (2004)

Review by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 22nd August 2022


Every thoughtful person should read this book.

Pitt is the ideal politician: the role model to be emulated. And might never be.

Pitt entered Parliament aged 21, refused the invitation to be Prime Minister, aged 23: because he could have no majority, p118. By then, he was already Chancellor of the Exchequer, p119. Again he refused the call from the King [George 3rd] p123. At the age of 24, in December 1783, invited again by the King, Pitt, at last, accepted, p132, 'on his own terms': Pitt was an independent, still with no majority, but at least the King needed him beyond any other.

How did this come about? Pitt's father had been the lone star of the House of Commons, beloved by many because of his honesty, integrity and ability [who, however, had made the mistake of becoming Earl of Chatham, thereby moving to the House of Lords, a somewhat less important chamber.] He himself brought up his son, assisted by tutors. The son did not go to school but studied hard as a child, often reading late at night. There was 'simultaneous translation': when the son would practise translating anything thrown at him [from Latin and Greek mainly; he later acquired French]. Oratory: fashioning a speech and declaiming it without preparation so that he became a rapid responder, and a formidable adversary in debate even before he went off to Pembroke College, Cambridge, aged 14, and occupied the rooms of the poet Gray, [of the Elegy, a few years before].

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Review of 'The Emperor's Codes: Bletchley Park's role in breaking Japan's secret cyphers' by Michael Smith

Review by William Scott. Including a personal memoir of Donald Michie, Bletchley Park, at the end.

© William WC Scott, 23th June 2022


This book, entitled 'The Emperor's Codes' published by Bantam in 2000 is riveting and important.

Some of the revelations are astonishing and likely to be applicable even today.

Eg p21 'The record of the US Navy on co-operation, not just with the British but with their own Army, was not merely lamentable, it was shameful', p22 The existing literature credits this almost entirely to the US codebreakers. In fact, with the exception of Purple, only one of the key codes was broken by an American alone and that in Australia.

p29 'The British had been busy intercepting the diplomatic communications of their enemies, and on occasion their friends, since 1324 when King Edward II ordered that all letters coming from or going to parts beyond the seas be seized.'

p29 'The British Army was the first organization to realize the potential intelligence to be garnered from 'censoring' the German diplomatic communications sent on the cables of the international telegraph companies. The War Office set up a special section, MI1b, inside military intelligence, (Room 40) recruiting a number of eminent academics, a mixture of classicists and Egyptologists, to break the German codes. Shortly afterwards. the Royal Navy followed suit on the orders of Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty.'

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Churchill: Villain of Gallipoli?

by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 23th June 2022


History has misled us about this. Churchill was not guilty, as a book published by Seaforth reveals. In 'Churchill and Fisher', Barry Gough presents a formidable quantity of quotation from the various main players that supplies, definitively, all the evidence necessary to understand what occurred.

When Home secretary, On July 27, 1911, Churchill attended a garden party at 10 Downing Street where he learned that the Home Office was responsible, through The Metropolitan Police, for guarding the magazines in which all the reserves of naval cordite were stored. These had been protected for many years by a few constables. He asked what would happen if twenty determined Germans in two or three motor cars arrived one night. He was told: 'They could do what they liked.' Churchill left the party and phoned the Admiralty from the Home Office.'Who was in charge?' The First Lord was with the fleet at Cromarty; the First Sea Lord was inspecting. An Admiral had been left in charge. Churchill demanded Marines at once to guard the magazines. The Admiral replied on the phone that the Admiralty had no responsibility and no intention of assuming any. Churchill rang up the War Office and demanded a company of infantry. By the next day the cordite reserves were safe.

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The Bute Witches: Pardons?

by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 25th February 2022


Read my article on the Bute witches, published in the Isle of Bute News, 25th February 2022.

Read the full article (PDF)


A new book

by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 11 November 2021


An accident and recovery interrupted progress, as did the pandemic. A new book has been written. The best yet. The work of The Genius of Bannockburn CH VI is proved by a totally different method involving a virtually exhaustive investigation of numerous cases of streams.

Some longstanding place names are overturned by the use of maps alone. Over 100 images of maps are involved; many things never seen before or understood. Some revelations which will shock historians: evidence as clear as could be: maps they never saw before, will be embarrassed by: a level of ignorance causing derision. The concept of proof in medieval history has been taken to a new, far higher level. Fifteen propositions, each with a raft of utterly compelling evidence: absolute certainty. The battle understood fully. The Psychology of Bruce: how did he get his Genius Idea? A large number of photos provide a treasure for future generations of how things looked before Stirling Council, badly advised, got on with building in the wrong places. The procedures involved can be used in future to decide almost every issue in medieval history. A few errors in the O.E.D. are corrected. As usual, Barrow and Duncan failed to swim at sufficient depth. Watch this space. If only they had been honourable and not mediocre. That, too, will have to change.


Oliver & Pollard's latest attempt to settle the site of the Battle of Bannockburn on film - a critique

by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 22 May 2020


This is the fourth attempt by them to solve this problem and it fails miserably as before. The first two achieved nothing, even though they were sent copies of Bannockburn Revealed (BR) published in the year 2000, (which no one was allowed to mention because it revealed some of the errors of Profs. Duncan and Barrow as Prof. Watson (then a lecturer at Stirling University) admitted. The culture of not correcting the errors of those in control meant they could not do so. Thus, Barrow's choice of the Dryfield as the site, which none of them understood, confused them. That was an impossible site because of the ridges and depressions, a huge one of 75ft and another west of it of 55ft made a cavalry charge across it impossible.

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Statement

by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 28 April 2020


The investigation I set myself is now complete. The entire matter proved with compelling force and hundreds of cases. A few would have been enough but that is not my style. This is the icing on the cake, I think. It was very difficult to do and the fact that I have been travelling all over Scotland, even in the last three years, with many more overnight stays to look at things, photograph them, interview long time residents and make screen shots of important maps, has made it possible. The effort of thought has been intense. It would make a nice book of 30,000 words and the investigation is so deep that none of the information and insight should be cut for the sake of satisfying some arbitrary number proclaimed by a journal. But I will look for one. It will be published, one way or another, in a month or two, I expect.

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Proof in Medieval History

by William Scott

© William WC Scott, 29th September 2019


A full proof of the Battle of Bannockburn, not just the site. A short proof. Why the Scottish History Community has made no progress in seven centuries. Proved. What should be done about it. Mathematical and Historical Proof compared. Appointing professors in future.

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Solving the Bannockburn Problems: What was it like?

by William Scott

Posted on Friday 12th April, 2019


By 1993, I thought that the Scots all fought on foot and, because of it, they would be close to the English cavalry. I said so in an article in Quill, ISBN 0952191008, p74. By 1998, after my novel, The Bannockburn Years, won the Constable Trophy and was published by Luath Press, some historians assumed I had not read their work. I had, and knew that our history was in a mess and likely to stay that way, unless I did something about it. I began to seriously collect sources and get them translated. I soon had four who agreed that the Scots fought on foot, every one of them. The first excitement: I knew I was onto something. That meant a Scottish cavalry charge was a mistake. Could I prove it and what else was wrong? Could I take on the Bannockburn Problems and solve them? It would mean giving up being a novelist. I decided I could afford a couple of years at this. It has taken over twenty.

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Why is this discovery announced now?

by William Scott

Posted on Sunday June 16th, 2019


Because it was achieved 20 years ago in Bannockburn Revealed (BR) and academic historians have never said anything about it. Because of the silence from them, I decided to set about proving everything, much of which had already been proved in BR by developing the concept of proof in this medieval history event and establishing the facts [i] by procedures which (it turned out) were original and utterly compelling. In 2005, the book, Bannockburn Proved, with a cover full of the high praise of several very able men, among them, Irvine Smith QC, was entered for the Saltire Research Award and no comment was made by the judge, Professor Cowan, then head of Glasgow University's campus at Dumfries who awarded the prize elsewhere. Asked about Bannockburn Proved (BP) after the competition, Cowan said he was 'familiar with it.'

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The Errors of Historians of Bannockburn. How they can be avoided. The Education of a Historian.

by William Scott

Posted on Saturday June 22, 2019


Historians make two [i] kinds of errors. Procedural errors and errors of insight. The primary, procedural error is the belief - stated to me with all the gravitas at his command - by Professor Barrow, that nothing can be proved about Bannockburn: the site of main battle, other sites, the road, the strategy and tactics, the training (if any), the numbers of adversaries, the nature of the ground: a map was 'impossible, too much changed in seven centuries.' Thus, there was no concerted effort at any time to collect all the sources or to deal with the question: how can these be used most successfully? Since no one ever collected them, what to do with them was never an issue. There is a fundamental error in all of this. That what is past is past and no one can know anything about it. Especially when it is an event that occurred seven centuries ago. All historians can do is speculate.

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New website is published

by William Scott

Posted on Thursday 28th February, 2019


© Elenkus: image of author William Scott
© image of author William Scott

Our new website has arrived.

Have you read the Novels: The Bannockburn Years; Bute Crucifixion; Honour Killing in Argyll & Bute?


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