In Against the Tide: An Autobiographical Account of a Professional Outsider, Leslie Woods relates the fascinating story of his life from fisherman's son in New Zealand to head of the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford. After starting at a trade school, he won a scholarship to a university, then joined the RNZAF, and later became a fighter pilot in the Pacific. Woods then won a Rhodes scholarship to Merton College in Oxford after WWII. Following several years of research in aerodynamics, he became a professor of engineering at the University of New South Wales. He also had a fellowship with Oxford's Balliol College and had a consultancy at Culham Laboratory where he researched the theory of magnetically confined hot plasmas. In 1970, Woods became a professor of plasma theory yet became disillusioned with the fusion energy project, which he believes survived on exaggerated claims of progress.
Besides recounting his history, Woods explains why magnetic fusion has failed to succeed and outlines the philosophy of science to which he subscribes. He writes frankly about both his successes and failures and finishes with an account of his taking up gliding at the age of 74.
Growing up. University days. Learning to fly. Flying about New Zealand. On active service. Rehabilitation. Kiwi at Oxford. Research and lecturing. University of New South Wales. University of Oxford. Struggles in research. The Tokamak fiasco. Ebb tide.