The news is making me so sad right now. We have any number of terrible apologies we could talk about, but instead, can we focus on a good one? (I realize we’ve had a lot of good apologies on the site lately. I DO NOT APOLOGIZE.)
This lovely apology is from Letters of Note, a delightful web site (and now a gorgeously published, oversized, heavy-papered, art-filled thick book) by Shaun Usher that looks at “fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos” — often with scans and photos of the letters in question. (The book features new content as well as posts from the site.)
This delightful letter was sent to the Royal Australian Air Force’s Rocket Range at Woomera.
Fifty two (52) years later, Denis got a reply. It begins with a fine apology for tardiness.
Department of Defence
Defence Science and
Mr Denis Cox
Dear Mr Cox,
I would like to thank you for your letter we received on 20th Oct. 1957 regarding the design of your rocketship. I apologise for the late response to your letters. You will appreciate, that as you requested “A Top Scientist” that uses the “WOOMERA ROCKET RANGE” it took a little while for your letter to get to me and in addition, it took some time to provide due consideration to your ideas.
Go read the whole charming reply at Letters of Note. Here’s the conclusion:
I remember as a boy designing rocket ships and planes at about the same time that you wrote your letter. I don’t know why or how, but somehow I was lucky enough to get to a position where I now head a team that designs planes and engines that will soon fly at Mach 8, or around 9000km/hr. I am proud to tell you that these planes will have an “AUSTRALIAN MARKING” on them as you indicated they should have. My one hope is that we do a sufficiently good job that is worthy of the inspiration, dreams and hopes that you provided in your letter those many years ago.
Once again, thank you for your letter.
Allan Paul BSc PhD MEngSc
Research Leader Applied Hypersonics
Air Vehicles Division
Thank you, nice scientists (and authors and artists and public servants) who write back to children. Even belatedly.