Oral history of British science
Lovelock, James (part 2 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.
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Climate Change Science
Interviewee’s home, Cornwall
Lovelock, James, 1919 - (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 2: Comments on awareness of clarity of rural air. Negative description of summer holiday stay at a farm north of Ely, Cambridgeshire, including comparison of level landscape with repressive religious observance. Positive description of contrasting landscape around Leith Hill. [05:00] Story of Sunday journeys with father from Brixton to Coldharbour, including sights, smells and tickling for trout. Comments on father’s knowledge of nature and landscape gained through poaching; poverty of England in relation to Ireland. [10:45] Comments on father’s instruction in location of edible berries and nuts; father’s lack of schooling, difficulty reading, interest in gardening. [13:20] Comments on imagining father as child seeking food from the land. Story of father being sent to Reading Gael for six months for poaching. Mentions father’s ability to spot animal tracks. [17:03] Comments on teaching at primary school. Mentions beating on hands. Story of revelatory experience of learning to read. Comments on comics; lack of popular science publications. [19:39] Story of first and subsequent visit to Science Museum between ages of 7 and 13, London, including ‘mephitic’ tunnel passed through on way, description of exhibits. Comments on liking for small instruments. [26:20] Story of Grammar School allowing lone visits to museums on Wednesday afternoons. [27:41] Comments on reactive sense of self as a school child; impression as a child of what being a ‘scientist’ involved; knowledge of the world of art as a child; interest in adventure and exploration. [30:57] Sexual behaviour at ‘The Strand’ Grammar School. [40:20] Comments on repression of sexual questioning and experimentation. Story of meeting with girl at Leith Hill who offered to show him where babies come from. Mentions childhood pneumonia. [43:27] Comments on mother’s sisters; parents’ marriage; aunts’ marriages, including youngest aunt’s marriage to Hugo Leakey [HL]. Mentions connection between London air and HL’s pneumonia. Brief description of Leakey’s house in Welwyn Garden City. Mentions naked sunbathing on flat roof; daughters of aunt in Hitchin. Story of Leakey family encouraging nakedness.
Life story interview with James Lovelock, independent scientist, environmentalist, author and researcher.