“I have come to the conclusion that everyone should write history based upon his own selection of sources that appear significant to him, but that no one should read it except to obtain general information in areas of peripheral concern. Oddly, only an amateur can be so detached.”
—Cyril Stanley Smith, 1981
It was with this quote by the famous British metallurgist and science historian that Prof Roddam Narasimha began his 1985 lecture on ‘Rockets in Mysore and Britain, 1750-1850 AD’ in Bangalore. Prof Narasimha, who was then director of the National Aeronautical Laboratory, had long been studying the rocket technology employed by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu. Their military weapon was sufficiently sophisticated for the time, comprising a metal casing holding the combustion powder, tied to a long bamboo pole. Much like a Diwali rocket.