Benjamin Roston, 1919-2007, Inventer of the Landmine Detector, Naturist
Tributes for inventor of the landmine detector
20 April 2007
A PERSON'S last words can rarely sum up their lives as well as Highgate resident and inventor of the first practical mine detector, Benjamin Roston. "I'm happy to die", he told doctors last week, "as long as there is no chance of survival".
Mr Roston was born in 1919 and grew up in Warsaw where his family would go into hiding every Christmas to avoid the sporadic attacks on Jews. A desire to escape his surroundings led to a fierce pursuit of knowledge, education, peace and freedom, which would continue throughout his life.
Aged 17 Mr Roston moved to London to study at university. The Second World War broke out a few years later and he never returned to Warsaw. His interests in maths and engineering led him to work for the Coal Board where he discovered the first practical method of detecting landmines. He sold the patent in 1948 for £1 and the right to be naturalised in Britain.
His daughter Suzy Roston said: "He always told us he had worked to save people's lives." The injustices Mr Roston faced forged a strong sense of activism which led him to join the Progressive League, Fabian Society and Labour Party. He attended meetings and wrote letters of protest until the end of his life.His battles for freedom also stemmed from a genuine appreciation of it. He loved the outdoors and was a keen naturist. Suzy Roston said: "Every bit of sun that came he'd rush up the M1, and loved lying on the beach and swimming in the nude. He even managed to convert a few people to it with his charm."
Mr Roston, who lived on Southwood Lawn Road, died of heart failure aged 87 at the Royal Brompton Hospital, Kensington, last Friday. He leaves behind his partner of 20 years, Tilly Haar and three daughters, Miriam, Carmel and Suzy Roston.