Oral history of British science
King-Hele, Desmond (Part 8 of 21). An Oral History of British Science.
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King-Hele, Desmond, 1927- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 8: Comments on ‘beauty’ of scientific theories in terms of efficiency or correctness. Comments on effect on writing book on Shelley on own decision to write poetry; specific interest in word play. [02:21] DKH reads own poem ‘fish and sticks’ from book ‘Poems and Trixies’ [PT] (1972). Comments on liking for word play, reading Oxford English Dictionary. [05:55] DKH reads poem ‘Back, by night’ from PT. Comments on writing of this poem. [09:26] DKH read own poem ‘Committee mini-men’ from PT. Comments on writing of this poem, including operation of scientific funding committees, identification of ‘Kafka Tower’ as ‘State House, Holborn, headquarters of Science and Engineering Research Council [SERC]; tendency to write poems or copy satellite observations in meetings. [13:49] Comments on early promotion through civil service; salary in 1960s in relation to house prices; perceived effect of MT on relative earnings of civil servants. [15:30] Story of 1961 meeting in Florence of International Committee on Space Research [COSPAR], involving international agreement on sharing of satellite observations. Comments on optimism of meeting; interest of volunteers in satellite observing; importance of individuals rather than local societies. [19:59] Story of American ‘Echo’ balloons of early 1960s causing observers in developing countries to speculate on status of objects as gods. Comments on reasons for launching ‘Echo’ balloons. [23:01] Comments on significance of DKH’s FRS, 1966; effect of DKH’s Bakerian lecture in establishing status of space science and DKH’s own status in RS, including chairmanship of National Committee on History of Science, Technology and Medicine. [25:44] Story of work on ‘Committee on Pollution in Space’, including controversial publication.
Life story interview with physicist Dr Desmond King-Hele