Oral history of British science
Jenkinson, David (Part 2 of 7). An Oral History of British Science.
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Climate Change Science
Interviewee’s home, Hertfordshire
Jenkinson, David, 1928-2011 (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 2: Description of Geography teaching at RS, including content of curricula, mention of local geomorphology. Comments on science teachers at RS: H.A. Godley [HAG], chemistry and JW Costain [JWC], chemistry, both Liverpool University graduates; experimental work in laboratory, though mostly book work. Description of content of chemistry teaching, mainly inorganic; practical chemistry. Story of laboratory green with chlorine gas, boys throwing gas jars of chlorine, choking. Comments on gases studied, nature and extent of qualitative and quantitative tests applied. Detailed description of process of making chlorine. Comments on throwing of opened chlorine gas jars. Story of making hydrogen, testing by burning, seeing explosion of impure hydrogen. [06:58] Description of chemistry laboratory with tiered benches looking down on demonstrations. Comments on hazardous demonstrations involving alkali metals in water, burning phosphorous. Comments on the teaching of history. Story of being hit in the face by history teacher retaliating against action of another boy. Comments on teaching of English by poet Maurice Craig; kinds of Shakespeare plays favoured at RS; many teachers’ negative view of poetry as effeminate. [11:41] Comments on continued interest in natural history out of school, though reading for pleasure interrupted by extensive homework. Description of DJ and brother’s Donald’s interest in building radios, encouraged and supplied with parts by electrical engineer uncle at Western Electric. Story of removing batteries from home radio for improvised devices; listening to German propaganda, Radio Moscow, North American radio on shortwave bands; uncle providing advice and books; buying electronic valves; erecting aerials in trees outside house. [14:47] Comments on influence of radio interest on later careers: brother recording nerve impulses electrically as biophysicist; DJ using mass spectrometers. Description of process of building home-made radio using components screwed to wooden board. Story of contracting spinal tuberculosis [TB] at the age of eleven or twelve, diagnosed much later in life, combined with asthma causing spinal curvature. [15:47] Comments on effect of illness on life. Positive comments on missing sports at RS. Story of unkind comments of science teacher regarding DJ’s posture. [17:48] Comments on effect of illness on self-confidence. Story of seeing Lancaster squadron practising over Armagh, seeing pilots in cockpits; Headmaster announcing many deaths of former pupils; American troops training for D-Day invasion on family farm; DJ following soldiers, collecting cartridge cases, filling with home-made gunpowder. Story of finding of explosive wrapped in oiled paper on disused railway line, dropped by American troops. [22:04] Descriptions of improvised chemistry using chemicals found on the farm, including gunpowder using flowers of sulphur and charcoal from burnt sticks, with reference to chemistry textbook; mixing chemicals to look for reactions, precipitates, fizzing sulphuric acid with limestone; fear of lead arsenate. [23:38] Further descriptions of American troops training over farm.
Life story interview with Professor David Jenkinson, soil scientist