Harry Jones: reflections on a life in engineering and science
05 Aug 2010




​​​​Harry Jones has worked in engineering and science for over forty years, and received an MBE in recognition of his achievements.

Harry Jones has had a career in engineering and science spanning five decades. He talks to Laura Makin-Isherwood about the changes he has seen at ISIS, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and in the engineering profession.​​

​I met with Harry Jones in his last week as a full time member of staff at ISIS. He took me along on the journey that started with his first position as an apprentice, to becoming Head of the ISIS Target Division and Project Manager for one of the biggest science projects in the UK - the ISIS Second Target Station.

Early years

"I started on the 2 January 1967," Harry recalled, “a day and a half after one of my daughters was born, and I didn't realise in those days you could get compassionate leave or whatever, so I just started.

"Working on the site has been a good experience, working with highly intelligent people all the time. It’s always challenging and you never get two days the same.

"I've worked with a lot of academics from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), universities and other research establishments worldwide and they usually need a lot of support from engineers on the site and I think this was recognised when I was awarded the MBE recently for services to science not being a scientist myself. I'm an engineer who supports scientists. I was very happy to receive the MBE from the Queen."

"Engineering is a great career, and I just love it. I'm very pleased that one of the legacies here is leaving ISIS in the hands of talented and motivated younger engineers." - Harry Jones

During his career, Harry has worked with scientists and researchers from across the globe, contributing to the success of large facilities. Early work on international projects contributing to building particle physics apparatus for the DESY Laboratory in Germany and for CERN in Switzerland saw him working with Nobel Laureates Carlo Rubbia and Simon Van der Meer.

Later, when the first agreement was drawn up in the early 1990s between ISIS and the RIKEN research institute in Japan, Harry spent periods of time visiting Japan. This was the first time that a British organisation had collaborated with Japanese scientists and the endeavour was extremely successful. It was the start of a longstanding working partnership, with the RIKEN-RAL agreement renewed earlier this year pushing the collaboration into its third decade.

Engineering change

Harry is a well respected member of ISIS, and has seen the facility grow from its conception in the late 70s through to delivery of the Second Target Station in 2009 - a project he delivered on time and to budget.

From the very beginning he was involved in the design and construction of ISIS, working on the mechanical design of the accelerator which came on stream in 1984, designing neutron instruments in the 90s, and then moving on to manage the ISIS engineering design teams.

His career at RAL, spanning five decades, has witnessed many changes in the design process and the practice of engineering. One of the largest shifts has been the introduction of computer control of machinery and computer aided design.

"Using computers in design was a great change. I don't think the design process is enhanced really by it because it’s down to a creative person sitting and putting their ideas down onto something whether it’s a screen or paper.

"However the visual representation of the design that we then transmit to other people is a lot clearer when you can have a 3D model on a computer screen rather than some flat bits of paper that you have to put together in your head.

"In the old days we used to make models for the scientists, so we could show them what the designs were going to look like. Now we can just show them an image. So although I don't think the design process is speeded up, the actual communication of a design is a lot better, and hopefully you eliminate a lot of the errors and the misconceptions that way."

Of all his achievements, Harry is most proud of passing on skills to the engineers of the future through the graduate training programmes run at RAL and ISIS over the last thirty years.

"Engineering is a great career, and I just love it. I'm very pleased that one of the legacies here is leaving ISIS in the hands of talented and motivated younger engineers."