Dr. Peter Moloney

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Early Years

Peter Joseph Moloney wrote his memoirs, Some Memories of Old Powassan, when he was over 90 years of age. He began: "I was born in Penetanguishene in 1891 in the month of June. Two years later we moved to Powassan where my father had bought a hotel. As a small boy I was glad we had come to Powassan because it seemed to me obvious that Powassan was the centre of the world, since the sky came down evenly all around, and our house was in the dead centre."

The Memories provides a lively picture of scenes and people from his childhood, and of questions that came to his mind. He says: "One of our classmates, a little girl who was said to have died of scarlet fever, was to be buried. Little boys of her class were asked to serve as pallbearers, I among others. It was bitterly cold weather and the clay was frozen hard. As we were letting down the coffin with leather straps, I slipped and nearly fell in on top of the coffin. Fortunately Mr. McArthur (the undertaker) came to my aid. I may add that one of my early worries was: Who is going to bury Mr. McArthur?"

Then there was the story of the man who tried to break the first law of thermo-dynamics: "The jeweller was a man of some skill in metal working. He was interested in making a perpetual motion machine and the entire village gave him full support. He hoped to devise a wheel that would turn continuously without any input of energy. To accomplish this it would be necessary to have one side of the wheel always heavier that the other side. To this end he made a wheel of rather thick metal, and in this he made grooves, not straight from the centre, as spokes of a wheel, but rather curved as arcs of a circle. Into these he was to insert metal balls that would move easily in the grooves. And the whole was covered by a thin metal plate. The thought was, that in the ascending side of the wheel, the balls would roll down the curved grooves and be tossed up toward the centre; whereas on the descending side the balls would roll down and be tossed up toward the circumference. I remember quite well when word flashed around the village, 'He's just about got it.' But he hadn't. If he had accomplished his purpose, he would have breached the First Law of Thermo-Dynamics, which is impossible."

By a strange coincidence, Moloney, as a young graduate in chemistry, was to work on the Second Law of Thermo-Dynamics! However, he did not remain long in the branch of physical chemistry. His life work was to be entirely in the field of bio-chemistry, in which he was very successful.

Copyright: Family Trust of Dr. Peter Moloney 2013. All rights reserved.

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