Throughout your life, you are shaped by the people around you, be it your family, your friends, your neighbours, your teachers, your coworkers… any number of people that pass through your life has the ability to make a tremendous impact on you. One such person who passed away recently was Mr. Leatham, my science/physics teacher for GCSE and A-Level.
Arguably, Mr. Leatham was a teacher who had one of the largest impacts on my schooling, having been my teacher for four out of the five years I spent at KGV. This meant that I spent anywhere from a couple of days a week (GCSE) to every day (A-Level) in a classroom with him – and those were fun times.
Somehow, a topic like air pressure became fun. He would tell stories about how he used to do demonstrations with vacuum hemispheres and how once, to prove how strong air pressure was, he would do a chin up with one of these… and as Murphy’s Law would have it, have that demonstration end with him landing on his back (“that was when I had a full head of hair”). How Newton’s 3rd Law might not be the best defence in court against punching someone in the nose. What the real definition of a micro-wave is. And of course, every A-Level student of his knows – or should know – about upthrust.
Once in a while, he would get a little bit cross with us – such as when we made a flame-thrower out of a gas tap – but somehow, he never lost his cool. Far from being furious at the table after the incident, he instead waved a hand over his face (changing from his annoyed face to his smiley-but-serious face), looked at everyone, and said “thou shalt not make flame throwers out of gas taps.”
In Year 13, there was a switch to a new timetable, where we would see every teacher every day. When he made that announcement to our class, it was news to all of us. Everyone groaned outwardly (yes, everyone in the room). However, I’m sure there were at least a few people who inwardly celebrated the fact that we would get to have physics every day.
To this day, I’m not quite sure about the genuinity of Mr. Leatham’s groan. Of course, he loved teaching – but we don’t quite know if he lost a few (of his few) hairs over the thought of seeing his wisecracking A-Level students every single school day.
It had been fairly well-known that he had been ill since summer of 2008, and his situation worsened earlier this year. Nonetheless, there was always hope that he would pull through, and that he would be once again seen on the grounds of KGV educating the next generation of scientists with his usual wit and flair.
3 June 2009 was indeed a sad day for all his life has touched.
Thanks again for being a great teacher. As a tribute – all of Mr. Leatham’s students… all together now:
“When an object is wholly or partially immersed…”