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Geoffrey Pyke
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    (November 9, 1893-February 21, 1948)
    Born in London, United Kingdom
    First cousin of scientist/TV presenter Magnus Pyke
    Served as a scientific advisor to Chief of Combined Operations Lord Louis Mountbatten
    Headed a team that created pykrete, a mixture of 14% wood pulp and 86% ice
    Proposed using pykrete to build an aircraft carrier 1,200 meters (3,935 feet) long and 180 meters (590 feet) wide
    For comparison, the USS Gerald R Ford, the largest aircraft carrier in the US Navy, is 337 meters (1,106 feet) long and has a flight deck 78 meters (256 feet) wide
    He went bankrupt speculating on the commodities market (1927), after which he lived on handouts from friends.
    After being hired by Mountbatten, he decided his own home was too shabby to entertain military visitors, so he broke into the house of a friend who was out of town.
    The aircraft carrier project was supposed to be named Habakkuk after an Old Testament prophet, but he misspelled it as ‘Habbakuk.’
    Pykrete, like ice, would flow under its own weight; to keep the aircraft carrier from sagging, it would have needed to be cooled to 3 degrees Fahrenheit (16 below zero Celsius), requiring the installation of a refrigeration plant and a system of cooling ducts.
    It was eventually calculated that building a refrigerated plant to produce the amount of pykrete needed for Project Habbakuk would cost more and require more steel than building a fleet of conventional aircraft carriers.
    During a bout of depression, he committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills.
    While attending Wellington public school, he was mercilessly bullied for being the first Orthodox Jew to ever attend.
    While working in Germany as a foreign correspondent during World War I, he was arrested as a suspected spy.
    To escape from an internment camp, he and another inmate hid in a storage shed on the exercise grounds. Pyke had noticed that during the late afternoon, the glare from the sun would blind anyone looking inside.
    That afternoon, a guard checked the hut and failed to notice the two prisoners. After dark fell, they slipped out of the shed, climbed a perimeter fence and eventually made it to neutral Holland.
    He founded a school that featured the first jungle gym in Britain.
    Lord Mountbatten reportedly demonstrated the durability of pykrete by dropping a block of it into the tub as Winston Churchill bathed.
    A prototype of a pykrete aircraft carrier built on Patricia Lake in Alberta lasted through three summers before melting.
    The Times called him ‘one of the most original if unrecognized figures of the present century.’

Credit: C. Fishel

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