Oral history of British science
Nye, John (Part 2 of 16). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewees home, Bristol
Nye, John, 1923 - (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 2: Stowe School Headmaster, JF Roxburgh [JFR]; relations with JFR; JFR’s lessons on architecture, Latin verse. Winning mathematics prize of book on SS with selected photographs. [05:58] Taking Tripos after one term, accepting Sir Lawrence Bragg [LB] offer of job in Cavendish Laboratory [CL], Cambridge. Mentions Randall and Boot’s ‘cavity magnetron’. work in Egon Orowan’s [EO] group in basement of CL. Mentions military service; 12:05] EO life and early career. Arriving at CL, LB’s introduction to JN’s work on ‘shatter phenomena’ (brittle fracture) in steel. Description of EO’s laboratory in basement, including equipment, shared desk with EO, colleagues Hoff (Austrian refugee) and Captain Los (Polish refugee), experiments of colleagues. [16:47] Beginning work for EO on brittle fracture, using mathematical theory of plasticity of metals. Mentions book by Nadai. Description of theory of plasticity. Mentions link with soil mechanics. Relations with Fort Halstead, led by physicist Nevill Mott [NM]. Fact brittle fracture findings published at end WW2, thereby unused but part of EO’s review in ‘Reports on Progress in Physics’. discovering various national groups had been working secretly on brittle fracture. [22:31] Cambridge meeting of physicists, metallurgists, naval engineers, ship builders, navigators on brittle fracture. Description of ‘fracture strength’ and ‘yield strength’ of metals; EO’s reasoning and approach. Comments EO’s career since emigration from Hungary, 1936; EO’s work with G I Taylor [GT] and Michael Polanyi [MP] of theory of ‘dislocations’ in crystal structure of metal. [30:05] Detailed description of theory of ‘dislocations’. EO’s emigration, background in engineering, Berlin. Description of process of presenting diagrams, equations and symbols in publications. [38:55] absence of discussion between JN and CL émigré colleagues concerning their backgrounds; own feelings about morality of wartime. Mentions NM’s research in ‘theoretical armaments’. Description of GT’s work on ‘plastic waves’, involving firing of paraffin wax cylinders into metal and experimental wheel. [43:01] Mentions metallurgist Mrs Tipper; engineering laboratory. Mentions absence of female scientists at CL when started; Audrey Douglas. Later employment of female crystallographers, many trained by John Desmond Bernal [JB], including Helen McGaw, Dorothy Crowfoot (later Hodgkin). [45:05] move to first floor laboratory, CL, after WW2; sharing desk with EO, listening to EO’s visitors. Mentions beginnings of interest in glaciology. [46:25] teaching of mathematics and physics in Cambridge degree. lectures in number theory. Preference for ‘down-to-Earth’ mathematics. Finding contrast between AE’s popular writings and lectures; AE’s evening lectures. Reading recent book on AE’s Quakerism, unknown at time. Mentions looking at AE’s popular science books recently; formal nature of AE’s lectures on ‘spherical trigonometry’; use in crystallography of these formulas introduced in book by FC Philips. [53:52] demonstrating in practical classes in CL. Mentions old fashioned atmosphere of CL; staff including Mr Bedford, Dr GFC Searle [FS](designer of scientific equipment); later job in FS’s optics laboratory. Conversation with FS. Description of FS’s laboratory; one of FS’s experiments; repetition of experiment at Bristol later; recent discussion with John Hannay [JH] on same. [59:30] modern ‘wave’ optics; FS’s production of equipment to measure standard Ohm.
Life story interview with Professor John Nye, physicist.