The idea of investigating neutron radiography first occurred to Dr. John Barton in December 1961 while attending a meeting in London on ways the wave properties of neutron radiation could be used, like X-rays, to study crystalline atomic structures in matter. He had recently joined the Applied Nuclear Science Faculty at the University of Birmingham and was supervising PhD students in such techniques. Neutron beam physicists would position their crystals using simple neutron absorbing markers and a film exposed to a scintillator screen converter. The vision of developing neutron radiography excited him for various reasons: the technology appeared much simpler than other neutron physics; the scope for benefits seemed essentially limitless over all future time; and, he thought he might have an original idea. The last thought was incorrect, of course, but in those days before computer search engines it took time to find that others had such ideas before, such as H. Kallman, 1937, and J. Thewlis, 1956. He was, however, alone in Europe in 1961. H.Berger and H. Watts worked in USA.
For the next thirty years Dr. Barton worked exclusively to help the international development of neutron radiography techniques and applications. To this end he devoted efforts as much to interesting others around the world to take up development of the field, as to undertaking individual projects. To remain focused on this one goal most effectively he moved his home between five locations in three countries from 1961 to 1981. During the initial three years, based at The University of Birmingham, he helped initiate interests at Harwell (reactor fuel applications), Aldermaston (research reactor utilization), Rolls- Royce Aero Engines (turbine blades safety), and Nuclear Enterprises (scintillators for neutron imaging). Before leaving Birmingham he ensured funding to help recruit Dr. Hawkesworth and others to continue development of neutron radiography. With a fellowship from the UK he then went to the Center for Nuclear Research in Grenoble, France. During nearly three years based in CEN Grenoble (1965-1968) important interactions included similar centers at Saclay, and Cadarache. He then moved to a base at Argonne National Laboratory from where during four years (1968-71) he again traveled extensively to help stimulate interest in centers for research or application nationally and internationally.
The International Neutron Radiography Newsletter, for which he was an editor, was one method to help the international development efforts during these early years. A compilation of 15 early issues from 1965 provides in its 210 pages a record of the centers in many countries that started activities during those early years and a listing of the reports prepared. In 1968 Dr. Barton raised through this communication the case for developing agreed methods to quantify the quality of neutron radiographic inspections, and this led to his initiation of an international committee to work on standards.
After the first ten years working exclusively to promote neutron radiography Dr. Barton organized a three day meeting of international exchanges held in Florida USA Dec 1971 and published in Transactions of the American Nuclear Society Vol. 12 No. 2 This contained 30 papers.
Between 1971 and 1978 Dr Barton was based at Oregon State University where access was available to a nuclear reactor with pulsing capability suitable for high-speed motion neutron radiography. Here too he was able to collaborate both nationally and internationally. The neutron radiographic inspection of mixed oxide (uranium-plutonium) nuclear fuel at Richland was important enough to justify installation of an on-site reactor facility. Another application, inspection of zirconium fuel cladding billets using a special cold neutron beam at a reactor, was recognized as the biggest single application to that time in the enlarging field of neutron radiography. One of much international collaboration was in Santiago, Chile where the International Atomic Energy Agency was providing an advanced center for nuclear capabilities.
In 1978 Dr. Barton moved again, this time to San Diego in Southern California. The move was to work with IRT Corporation on a diversity of neutron radiography applications including design of isotopic source systems using Californium 252. and early development of computerized axial tomography using neutron radiography. He later worked as consultant to assist with neutron radiography projects across the nation and across the world. Twenty years after committing to work exclusively toward international development of neutron radiography, Dr Barton organized and held in San Diego, what became known as "The First World Conference on Neutron radiography". The proceedings, published by D. Reidel. Contains 140 papers from 20 countries. Amongst those centers reporting activities were 5 from UK, 11 from France, 28 from the USA and nearly 100 from 17 other countries.
Dr. Barton helped organize and co-chair subsequent conferences in the series held in Paris 1986, Osaka, and San Francisco 1992 and at each the number of countries reporting progress has increased. The proceedings of the Fifth World Conference on Neutron Radiography includes an invited paper by Dr. Barton entitled "International Neutron Radiography-Past and Present. In that review more detail is provided including references to about fifty research papers authored by J.P Barton between 1964 and 1996 on various aspects of neutron radiography.
Between the 1992 conference and the 1996 conference Dr. Barton drafted a proposed constitution for the formation of the "International Society for Neutron Radiology" and co-ordinated review input from all co-founders. The foundation of the society was discussed and adopted at the 1996 conference. A paper entitled "International Society For Neutron Radiology-Foundation" is authored by JP Barton and included in the proceedings of the Fifth World Conference on Neutron Radiography published 1997 by DGZfP Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Zerstörungsfreie Prüfung e.V. ISBN 3-931381-08-0 edited by C.O Fischer, J.Stade, W.Bock.
International Symposia where Dr. Barton was honored to be the invited speaker on neutron radiography include Cambridge UK 1982 (The 50th anniversary of the discovery of the neutron), MIT USA 1983, Petten, Netherlands 1989, JAERI, Japan 1993, and Budapest, Hungary 1994.
Dr. Barton was born in London in 1934. He was educated in Physics at the University Of Birmingham, where there was a strong emphasis on nuclear physics. He then worked for four years with the UK Atomic Energy Authority first at Harwell then at Winfrith on theoretical and experimental design input for the UK nuclear power station program.
After retiring from neutron radiography work in 1992 Dr Barton has worked on some medical applications of neutron physics. He is also concerned with international efforts toward nuclear weapon control and disarmament.
He and his wife Claudia were married in 1965 in France. To follow his neutron radiography career she had to resign from a tenured position in Physics at the University of Grenoble. They live primarily at their home in San Diego but travel to UK, France and many other countries. They have two children and three grandchildren who live in northern California.