Victor Edward Pullin
Dr Victor Edward Pullin ( -1956), Expert on uses of X-radiography in engineering
WE regret to have to record the death last week of Dr Victor Edward Pullin, a pioneer of the use of radiological methods for the examination of engineering materials. Dr. Pullin was born in Lancashire and was the son of a medical practitioner. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford.
No doubt it was as a consequence of the influence of his father that he seems at first to have contemplated becoming a medico, for he was a student of medicine and was qualified in that subject. But he never seems to have practised it. We have not been able to determine in the time available to us the exact course of events immediately thereafter. Some light is thrown upon it by the later history of his life.
During the first world war he joined the Royal Engineers. In 1916 he was invalided out and went to Woolwich Arsenal Research Department as an assistant metallurgist. There the application of X-rays to the examination of the bases of high-explosive shells was under discussion. Dr. Pullin was asked to investigate the possibilities, partly, at least, because he had some medical knowledge of radiology. The suggestion is certainly conveyed that as a medical student his interests had already strayed in that direction.
Dr. Pullin threw himself heart and soul into this investigation and he soon foresaw what very considerable developments were foreshadowed by his work. Like all pioneers he was working under difficulties. He had to establish a small radiological section which involved, of course, finding others besides himself who would enthusiastically take up the work. In addition he bad to design and have made by the section X-ray equipment capable of demonstrating successfully how useful radiological examination could be. Soon it was shown that X-ray examination could be usefully employed in the inspection of fuses and other assembled parts of weapons. Use was also made of the method for the examination of captured enemy ammunition.
So successful was he in demonstrating what could be done that in June, 1919, he was appointed Director of Radiological Research at Woolwich. Thereafter his whole life was spent in enlarging the field of application of radiological methods of examining materials. Possibly as a consequence of his medical training, he early appreciated the dangers to which operators of X-ray and other radiological equipment were exposed and he constantly drew attention in his publications to the precautions that needed to be observed.
In due course he appreciated the possibility of using radioactive materials for examining materials. In delivering the Cantor Lectures to the Royal Society of Arts in 1925, for example, he showed for the first time some lantern slides of gamma radiography taken with radium. Thereafter, he delivered many lectures and read many papers before learned societies revealing the progress made in the field that he had especially made his own. Many articles from his pen appeared in this journal, and in 1934 he published a book entitled Engineering Radiography.
His own work was principally done to meet the needs of the Services. The Army was mainly concerned with the examination of ammunition and fuses, the Navy with that of steel castings and welds - it is interesting to reflect that but for his work the progress in the use of welding would probably have been much delayed and the Air Force with that of light alloy castings. But industry in general found applications for ills work and its great value was recognised in 1933 when he was made C.B.E.
In September, 1938, he retired from his job as Director of Radiological Research to set up an independent consulting practice. During the second world war he was called upon by the Ministry of Aircraft Production as a consultant and he was consultant to the Ministry of Supply at the time of his death.
The loss of Dr. Pullin to workers in radiological fields is a severe one. But it is an even more severe one to his friends, amongst whom we reckon ourselves. For Dr. Pullin was a charming character, easy to work with and very appreciative of the work of others; entertaining, too, to talk to, and within his own subject, one about which no one knew more than he, he combined enthusiasm with the modesty that only the great possess, the modesty to realise how very much more there still is to know.