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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Sir Barnes Wallis Quotes

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Sir Barnes Wallis
(26 Sep 1887 - 30 Oct 1979)

English aircraft designer and military engineer whose famous 9000-lb bouncing “dambuster” bombs of WW II destroyed the German Möhne and Eder dams on 17 May 1943. He also designed the 5-ton Tallboy and 10-ton Grand Slam earthquake bombs, used on many enemy targets in later years of the war.


Science Quotes by Sir Barnes Wallis (5 quotes)


For some men of great courage and adventure, inactivity was a slow death. Would a man like Gibson ever have adjusted back to peacetime life? One can imagine it would have been a somewhat empty existence after all he had been through. Facing death had become his drug. He had seen countless friends and comrades perish in the great crusade. Perhaps something in him even welcomed the inevitability he had always felt that before the war ended he would join them in their Bomber Command Valhalla. He had pushed his luck beyond all limits and he knew it. But that was the kind of man he was… A man of great courage, inspiration and leadership. A man born for war… but born to fall in war.
— Sir Barnes Wallis
Wallis wrote after the death of Guy Gibson, leader of the successful Dambusters raid by the 617 Squadron. Gibson was killed a year later when his airplane crashed returning from a night-time sortie over Germany. As quoted in W. B. Bartlett, Dam Busters: In the Words of the Bomber Crews (2011, 2013), 272-273.
Science quotes on:  |  Adjust (11)  |  Adventure (69)  |  Comrade (4)  |  Courage (82)  |  Crusade (6)  |  Death (406)  |  Drug (61)  |  Inactivity (4)  |  Inspiration (80)  |  Leadership (13)  |  Limit (294)  |  Peacetime (4)  |  Perish (56)  |  Slow (108)  |  Valhalla (2)  |  War (233)  |  Welcome (20)

I hardly look upon this as an operational mission. My job has just been to develop something which will break down a dam wall. I look upon this raid as my last great experiment to see if it can be done on the actual thing.
— Sir Barnes Wallis
About his “dambuster” bomb project during World War II. As quoted in W. B. Bartlett, Dam Busters: In the Words of the Bomber Crews (2011, 2013), 103. Wallis said this, ahead of the raid, to Wing Cdr G. P. Gibson, leader of the force of Lancasters of Bomber Command.
Science quotes on:  |  Bomb (21)  |  Dam (9)  |  Develop (278)  |  Experiment (736)  |  Job (86)  |  Mission (23)  |  Operation (221)  |  Raid (5)  |  Reality (274)  |  Wall (71)

I hope they all come back.
— Sir Barnes Wallis
About the crews dropping his “dambuster” bombs during World War II. As quoted in W. B. Bartlett, Dam Busters: In the Words of the Bomber Crews (2011, 2013), 103. Wallis said this to Wing Cdr G. P. Gibson, leader of the force of Lancasters of Bomber Command on the raid. As described by historian Richard Morris, “At the final briefing late on the Sunday afternoon, Wallis had addressed 19 crews. The next day, only 11 of them came back. Fifty-six of the faces into which he had looked just a few hours before were gone, and all but three of them were dead.”
Science quotes on:  |  Hope (321)

You gentlemen are really carrying out the third of three experiments. We have tried it out on model dams, also a dam one-fifth in the size of the Mohne dam. I cannot guarantee it will come off, but I hope it will.
— Sir Barnes Wallis
To flight crews setting off to drop “dambuster” bombs during World War II. As quoted in W. B. Bartlett, Dam Busters: In the Words of the Bomber Crews (2011, 2013), 103.
Science quotes on:  |  Bomb (21)  |  Dam (9)  |  Experiment (736)  |  Guarantee (30)  |  Hope (321)  |  Model (106)

You know, there’s such a very thin dividing line between inspiration and obsession that sometimes it’s very hard to decide which side we’re really on.
— Sir Barnes Wallis
Fictional words as screenwriter’s dramatization in the script of the 1955 movie The Dam Busters. The words were spoken by actor Michael Redgrave, portraying Barnes Wallis.
Science quotes on:  |  Hard (246)  |  Inspiration (80)  |  Know (1538)  |  Obsession (13)  |  Side (236)



Quotes by others about Sir Barnes Wallis (1)

Sir Barnes Wallis, of inventive mind,
Crafted a bomb of a unique kind.
  It bounced on the lake,
  Caused the Möhne Dam to break,
Leaving shattered remains behind.
Limerick by Artificial Intelligence, very lightly edited by Webmaster, for prompt: “Write a limerick about Barnes Wallis and his Dambuster bouncing bomb.”
Science quotes on:  |  Bomb (21)  |  Bounce (3)  |  Break (110)  |  Cause (562)  |  Craft (12)  |  Dam (9)  |  Destruction (136)  |  Inventor (80)  |  Kind (565)  |  Lake (37)  |  Leave (139)  |  Limerick (16)  |  Mind (1378)  |  Shatter (9)  |  Unique (73)  |  World War II (10)


See also:
  • 26 Sep - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Wallis's birth.
  • The Dam Busters, by Paul Brickhill. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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