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Harry Stopes-Roe

Current AffairsPosted by David McDonagh Fri, May 30, 2014 16:04:09

Harry Stopes- Roe died, at the age of 90, on 11 May 2014. He was born on 24 March 1924.

I first met Harry Stopes –Roe in 1979, when he came to give a course on nuclear power with a joint-presenter, a young Green half his age or younger. The Green hated nuclear power, of course, but both presenters/tutors of the extramural night time class at the University of Warwick, held degrees in physics. There were not many in the class, but having read Petr Beckman’s book, The Health Hazards of NOT going Nuclear (1976), I was about the only one who was sympathetic to the case for nuclear power that Harry was making, but that the young Green, and most of the class, were quite hostile to.

Harry later turned up at the debate put on by the Debating Society at Warwick between G.A. Wells and Michael Goulder on the topic Did Jesus Exist? He had given Michael Goulder a lift from Birmingham and he gave me and Michael a lift back to Birmingham. We discussed Popper versus Kuhn in his car on the way to our then common home city.

I later met Harry at a few of the funerals that he conducted as a Humanist for some secular friends of mine who had died. We always seemed to get on well.

I did not know that he had taken a degree in philosophy till this last week. He was certainly still exceedingly keen on physics whenever I met him.

He was born to the famous Marie Stopes, the birth control advocate, in London. He took a BSc, and then an MSc, in physics from Imperial College, London.

He became an amateur atheist who later was the chairman of the British Humanist Association until his death. He later took a PhD from the University of Cambridge in philosophy. He provided secular funeral services and he thought that Wells made out a better case than Michael Goulder in the debate at Warwick. But Goulder was an extravert whilst Wells was somewhat shy, so that was not the majority view. We failed to record the debate.

Harry married Mary Eyre Wallis, the daughter of the Dam Buster’s engineer, Barnes Wallis, but his mother cut him out of her will for doing so, as Mary was short sighted. On Last Word 23 May radio 4, Mary told of how daunted she was by her future mother in law before they married. Marie objected to the marriage, as Mary’s short sightedness showed up that she was from inferior stock. She expected poor sighted grandchildren from such a match.

Harry took a job at the University of Birmingham teaching Science Studies. This will be how we came to meet at Warwick in 1979, for Warwick used Birmingham’s Extramural Department to put on night classes. I took Philosophy as a student at Warwick during the day but still attended night classes in the evenings.

Harry showed no positive or negative reaction to liberalism when I brought it up, but he did change the subject. I never brought it up a second time. He seemed to be interested in other things, but he did the same with socialism too, when an associate common to us both, brought socialism up at one funeral. So I suppose he was apathetic on that sort of thing, as most of the public are.

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