Wallace Minto was a dedicated scientist during World War II, immersed in the Manhattan Project, purifying uranium for use in the bomb that would abruptly and irrevocably end the war.
After the war, Wally pursued avenues of research that were very unconventional. One of them was based on a popular novelty, the glass-bulb dipping bird – you know, the one that dips his beak in the water, then bounces back as the red Freon liquid vaporizes, then condenses, rebalancing the weight and forcing him to drink again.
Wally foresaw a practical application, and built a big one. Instead of a glass bird, the “Minto Wheel” was a mini-Ferris wheel with alternating, interconnected empty and Freon-injected tanks. A heat source on a lowest tank would vaporize the Freon, forcing it to an upper, cooler tank where it would condense. This would unbalance the tanks so that gravity would pull the cooler wheel downward, thus rotating the wheel. Thus cooling and warming alternately and endlessly, the wheel would drive a system of gears for whatever task it was presented with.
The Minto Wheel never really caught on, but its features and details to make one are readily available on the web.
When I first met Wally, he was perfecting one of his most fascinating concepts. He had discovered that some fish – especially the sea robin -- actually intercommunicate with electrical signals. Not acoustical sounds like whales and dolphins emit, and not shocking like the electric eel, but small electric bursts that can be heard in the audio spectrum. He demonstrated this to me with his laboratory equipment and fish in an aquarium.
Anyone can duplicate this with nothing more than a battery powered audio amplifier and an insulated probe with a stainless steel bolt at each end to form an antenna of sorts. With the probe in the ocean water, fish can be heard “talking” to each other in brief electrical chirps.
Wally’s discovery was given keen notice by the U.S. Navy who undertook the project and then classified it. Were they planning to use it for their own submarine communication? Did they just want to listen to fish talk? Are they using it now for some guarded purpose? We may never know.
Wally Minto, a self-directed genius, died some time ago, his death attributed to radiation poisoning from his exposure during the Manhattan Project.