Oral history of British science

Dommett, Roy (Part 19 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

  • Add a note
    Log in to add a note at the bottom of this page.
  • All notes
  • My notes
  • Hide notes
Please click to leave a note

The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »

Tags (top 25):
(No tags found for this item)
  • Type


  • Duration


  • Shelf mark


  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Fleet

  • Interviewees

    Dommett, Roy, 1933- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 19: Remarks on: people never asking what RD did reputation for being inquisitive and interested in local activities; importance of wider interests; anecdote about a promotion board RD sat on; anecdotes about RD's promotion interviews, having to admit being in the same pantomime as interviewer Dennis Madison; importance of Morris dancing keeping his life in balance; importance of living your job; [06:30] link of play performances with work presentations; student examination practice; link of interviewing people about Morris dancing with talking to people in professional life. [08:55] Comments on spending whole career at RAE Farnborough: expecting to have found himself posted to London; deciding to stay in civil service in 1968; twenty year involvement leading to him becoming special merit DCSO; anecdotes about SPSO and DCSO interviews, with Mr Press from the Cabinet Office and MoD Chief Scientific Advisor [Ronald] Mason, Newley director of Aldermaston, with reference to Aldermaston attitudes and Trident decision; RD working with division head successor Bill Leicester. [14:20] Detailed Comments on late career innovative work: working with ASA Camberley on parallel processing and algorithms for tracking, later sold to Americans for use at White Sands; problems interesting UK in need for work; working with David Sloggit of Data Sciences on AIDA artificial intelligence discrimination algorithm, later used at White Sands despite RAE disinterest. [21:35] Remarks on ethnic minorities and women at the RAE: initial security issues with immigrants; few women engineers, such as Miss Shilling; good treatment of women clerks and typists compared to scientists. Remarks on later career: being able to initiate studies but not projects; idea for flywheel control of re-entry bodies. [27:50] Remarks on: never considering leaving the civil service, enjoying a constantly creative and interesting career; [sneeze] ministry policies for matching people to positions; happy throughout career; not ending up in positions he expected; recap of early career path, with remarks on management complications of Chevaline, leaving RD working on systems work and leaving engineering to George Munns; [33:00] RD enjoying ELDO, AGARD, SDI and Australian workshops; RD philosophy that people should move on every 5 years, both in work and personal life, with remarks on his own career path and interests. [35:50] Overview comments on projects RD worked on: Blue Streak basis for later work; knowledge carried on between projects, with remarks on nuclear hardening computer architecture developed on Chevaline and later used by NASA on space probes and Tornado hardening; improved flow field algorithms over complex bodies, relationship to European Space Agency projects, possible loss of capability [41:30]. Remarks on: continuous career path; changes in RAE, loss of knowledge down generations in reorganisations, with remarks on reorganisation of RAE departments; complications of file systems changing when departments renamed, with remarks on ABM studies, disappearance of defensive weapons department, obsolescence of some storage media used by RAE, RCA and BAE; problems with electronic equipment becoming obsolescent, with reference to purchasing enough electronics to support Chevaline throughout its entire lifetime and comparison to American Apollo arrangements. [49:45] Remarks on Qinetiq and DERA; certain senior people seeing chance to make a profit through privatisations; less research orientated than RAE; RAE offering individuals the chance to develop career in a certain field; limitations for research funding arrangements in Britain compared to France, with reference to programme choices, such as over Black Arrow and Polaris. [54:35] Comments on cultural differences with Aldermaston, where staff were ranked higher than the RAE; different cultures of different parts of the research establishments on Chevaline, with remarks on history, attitudes, chain of command of RAE compared to newer Aldermaston; [1:00:20] problems and practices of working with Aldermaston; Vic Macklen's position in London. [1:02:50] Remarks on: RRE Malvern and other army and navy establishments, such as Portsdown; artificial intelligence, HMS Marlborough; problems working together due to cultural differences; Luxuriant study on military uses of space; different backgrounds providing alternative views; anecdote about Department of Analysis Establishment at Weybridge having no idea how much a nuclear weapon cost; [1:07:40] problems costing RAE facilities, leading to facilities being sold off. [1:09:02] Comments on difficulties RD has assessing what he actually did on certain projects: 17 page CV of project contributions; need to explain projects for him to explain his life's work; RD seeing his career as connected packages; RAE community approach making it difficult to split individual contributions; CBE award a recognition of group achievement; RD personal activities on Blue Streak, with reference to team effort. [1:13:45] Remarks on: being happy to see the end of nuclear weapons, but recognising they are part of political game; credibility of British nuclear capability; limitations of documentary sources, with reference to Allied photographic reconnaissance of V-weapons; limitations of oral history. [1:16:05] Remarks on: feelings about taking part in oral history project; views on teams and individuals he talked to most; Chevaline team being the cream of the establishment, with remarks on John Flood and Mike Rance, Dave Albery and Rex Chase, an ex-dockyard apprentice which caused him career problems. [1:21:10] Remarks on feelings about being a British government scientist: Britain technically able at an affordable price, with reference to cost differences between American Avco and British Marconi; rewards of work; increased regimentation of work over years; comparison of his work with the teaching of Morris Dancing and structural engineering, and the loss of skills over time. [1:29:10] Remarks on rewards: vague citations for CBE, RAeS silver medal; problems with historians not knowing about secret work; remarks on this interview; loss of rocketry experience over years; presentation to University of the Third Age. [1:33:10] Remarks on: article in Morris dancing publication, with anecdote about a visit to Sidmouth folk festival; processing of interview, summary, review of interview by MoD's Tony Wilson.

  • Description

    Interview with rocket scientist and aeronautical engineer Roy Dommett

  • Related transcripts

    Roy Dommett interviewed by Dr Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

  • Metadata record:

    View full metadata for this item

Dommett, Roy (Part 19 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

Please log in to update your playlists.

Can you tell us more about the context of the recording? Or can you share information on its content - timings of key sections or important details? Please add your notes. Uninformative entries may not be retained.

Please log in to leave notes.