Oral history of British science
Gilchrist, Andrew (Part 1 of 7). An Oral History of British Science
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The British Library, London
Gilchrist, Andrew, 1929- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 1: Andrew Gilchrist [AG] born Darvel, Ayrshire, Scotland, 1929. Comments on lace weaving industry, Darvel. Mentions father’s job as weaver, Darvel; father’s World War One [WW1] service; mother’s childhood as shepherd’s daughter, Isle of Arran. Mentions school leaving age for mother/father; marriage of parents, 1922; three siblings. [1:33] Story of father’s life, including WW1 service. [3:14] Story of mother’s life, including service as dairymaid, Kilmarnock. [3:55] Comments on grandparents, including relations with maternal/paternal grandmother [PG]. Brief description of character/abilities of PG. [5:11] Description of family house, from 1936, including comments on family singing around piano. [7:24] Comments on lack of time spent with father as a child; father’s pastimes/involvement in radical politics with fellow weavers; father’s work/non-work clothes. [9:35] Mentions mother’s singing; own outdoor childhood play. Comments on mother’s role as disciplinarian, with related story. [11:22] Comments on outdoor play with friends. Description of childhood employment as barber’s assistant/ ‘soap boy’ [SB], aged 8-13. Mentions summer holiday farm/nursery work. [14:23] Description of work of SB. Mentions piano lessons. Comments on conversation of customers in barbers. [15:57] Mentions use by mother of wages. Comments on playing with toys with younger brother; limited relations with sister; childhood reading of adventure stories, Meccano magazine, ‘Books of Knowledge’ (latter bought by mother). Description of folding diagrams in BK. Comments on reading of comics/magazines. [22:49] Story of summer holidays on Arran, including positive effect on father. [25:59] Story of formation of Original Seceders Church [OSC] in Darvel by father’s ancestors, 1880s. Comments on/discussion of childhood churchgoing/faith/religious education. Description of OSC service, involving psalms. [30:19] Comments on Darvel Higher Grade School [DHGS], attended aged 5-13. Mentions science laboratory, DHGS; intelligence test; parents’ lack of involvement in own education. Comments on effect on schooling of World War Two [WW2]. Mentions move to school in Kilmarnock. Stories of effect on self/own family/Darvel of WW2. Mentions membership of Boys’ Brigade [BB]. [37:14] Comments on own academic ability/interest in education, in relation to peers. [39:29] Comments on science/mathematics teaching, DHGS; playground games, DHGS. Mentions careers of former school friends. [44:35] Description of Kilmarnock Academy [KA].Comments on parents’ continuing lack of involvement in own education. Story of attainment in Scottish Higher and Lower examinations; success in bursary competition for University of Glasgow [UOG]. Mentions older brother’s employment as Royal Air Force [RAF] navigator; sister’s employment. [50:22] Mentions additional mathematics qualification. Comments on decision to read mathematics and physics at UOG. [52:44] Story of admission to UOG, aged 16, 1945. [55:05] Description of commute to/from UOG. Comments on content of MA degree, UOG, including subsidiary English Literature and Political Economy. Description of contemporary political context, including Hugh Dalton’s ‘cheap money policy’. [1:00:57] Comments on lack of discussion of degree with parents. Description of ‘utilitarian’/’old-fashioned’/ ‘standard-basic’ mathematical content of degree, including ‘special functions’, ‘matrixes’, ‘circular [spherical] geometry’. [1:03:45] Comments on practical work in physics, UOG. Description of work of new Professor/lecturing staff involved in particle physics including development of synchrocyclotron. Description of practical work on behaviour of alpha/beta particles and X-rays; operation of cloud chamber. [1:09:02] Comments on WW2 work of new staff, UOG, including roles in development of radar, guided weapons and the atomic bomb. Comments on morality of this scientific work. Story of reading of Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society [QJRMS] during degree. Comments on/discussion of decision to pursue a career in the Meteorological Office [MO], rather than particle physics in an establishment such as the Atomic Energy Research Establishment [AERE], Harwell, Oxfordshire. Comments on status of meteorology during WW2; older brother’s professional interest in meteorology; contemporary research in meteorology, reported in QJRMS.
Interview with climate modeller and research meteorologist Andrew Gilchrist