Have you heard of the communist tyrant responsible for millions of deaths? He was a chemist and at some stage, after lurking anonymously in the background of power, was able to poison three quarters of the population. No one knew who he was but it was believed that the person was still alive and perhaps living in luxury.
Which brings me to a simpler scene: an ordinary chemistry class at school. Young Harry has asked his chemistry teacher a simple question. Ms Braxton was a tyrannical chemistry teacher. She was to be feared. Not one of her pupils learnt Chemistry out of love; they learnt it out of fear. Ms Braxton had been teaching Chemistry for so long that several generations had passed through the school despising Chemistry. Rumour had it that she knew who the tyrannical communist chemist was; perhaps even she had taught the murderous persecutor.
Young Harry’s question was simply this: Why does bread go brown when it is toasted? Ms Braxton had explained that the starch under heat reflected light to the right (“dextra” was the Latin word for “right” so the brown bit was called dextrin). That made the toast look brown. It’s why the crust on a loaf of bread is brown.
Ms Braxton certainly knew her stuff. She was very learned. She lived alone in a very big house and drove a very expensive car. The question young Harry (and most of the impressionable teenagers in the class) really wanted to ask was “How come you’re so rich?” In fact, he did ask her. She got very angry and told him to mind his own business. Her reaction was certainly proof of something don’t you think?