Oral history of British science
Jenkinson, David (Part 3 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 3: Comments on aspects of previous session: depiction of Royal School, including story of recruitment visit from Brigadier, Indian Army. Positive comments on Reverend John Cockrell. Mentions details of book of interviews with Seamus Heaney. [02:27] Story of winning Sizarship in Experimental Science: Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, at Trinity College, Dublin [TCD] and Louis Purser Prize. Comments on tradition of Sizarships at TCD; character of TCD at time of joining, October 1946, including cultural isolation, ban on Catholic undergraduates. [05:02] Comments on isolation of TCD from Britain; TCD’s ‘inward looking’ culture; character of TCD now. Negative comments on teaching of chemistry by Emile Werner [EW], based on nineteenth century German [19th C] chemistry. Mentions status of Chemistry Department [CD] as teaching department for prospective medical students; lack of research. Story of effect on CD of arrival of new Head of Department, Professor Wesley Cocker [WC] and David Pepper [DP], lecturer in physical chemistry: modernisation of course, insistence on research, new laboratories. Comments on character of existing laboratories with gas lighting. Mentions WC’s introduction of ‘modern laboratory standards’. Comments on impression on DJ of WC; interest in WC’s specialism of organic chemistry [OC]; character of Physics Department as ‘dead’, except for lectures of Ernest Walton [EW], Nobel Prize winner 1951. [08:37] Story of achieving First in physics from day’s revision in first year; results deteriorating in second year due to outside interests; decision to start working harder; final First Class degree. Positive comments on social life in Dublin, including involvement in theatrical societies, leftwing movement, student Promethean Society, active membership of Fabian Society, friendships, visits to relations in Dublin, interest in films including ‘Les Enfants du Paradis’ and Disney films. Mentions decision to focus on work; four year length of Degree. [12:15] Story of invitation to begin postgraduate research in CD in 1950. Description of character of CD in 1950. Mentions WC’s membership of Council of Chemical Society, later renamed Royal Society of Chemistry. Description of early content of research, involving partly successful synthesis of more stable version of sugar ‘reductone’ by substituting a hydrogen by a phenyl group. Mentions paper published. Description of next research topic, involving aromatization of cyclic hydrocarbons. Story of accident resulting in pulmonary oedema. [15:35] Mentions papers published. Story of taking up temporary employment at Thomas Hedley [TH], soap manufacturer, Newcastle Upon Tyne [NUT], through WC’s contacts. Comments working hours; feelings about value of work synthesising detergents. Story of research programme on differences between British and American housewives’ perfume preferences; attitude of electrician when DJ attempted to repair equipment himself. Comments on not liking NUT, missing social life in Dublin; contrast between TH research tied to working day and postgraduate research, preferring latter; declining permanent job offer, TH. [19:40] Detailed description of WC’s modernisation of content of chemistry course at TC in relation to limitations of existing course. Comments on WC’s introduction of ultra violet spectrograph [UVS] and infra red spectrographs [IRS] in spite of conservative, reluctant university Board [23:00] Story of WC establishing new chemistry laboratory in room cleared of medical specimens. Description of new laboratory; contrasting old ‘Long Room’ [LR] in relation to medical tradition. Mentions WC knocking down LR after DJ had left; lack of instruments in LR. Description of process of ‘qualitative’ analysis in LR. [26:56] Detailed description of use of DU Perkin Elmer UVS. Discussion of point by point measurement of spectra. Mentions using UVS alone; technician operating IRS; arrival of IRS when postgraduate research finished. Comments on WC’s career in relation to interest in new instruments. [31:06] Comments on extent to which DJ discussed social life in Dublin with parents; Promethean Society, including members and later careers; important friendships. Comments on contemporary social restrictions on relationships with girls. [36:33] Story of meeting future wife at Abbey Theatre. Mentions enjoyment of Dublin theatrical movement. [37:37] Comments on perfume programme at TH. [38:35] Story of teaching final year students in Agricultural Chemistry when joined Department of Agricultural Chemistry [DAC], University of Reading, 1955 as ‘temporary assistant lecturer’. Mentions key texts in agricultural chemistry used in lecture preparation including Russell ‘Soil Conditions and Plant Growth’, Robinson ‘Soils’, Grims ‘Clayl Mineraology’. [40:15] Description of DAC; ‘soil section’ [SS] of DAC. Mentions senior scientist Joseph Tinsley [JT]; instruments in SS laboratories. Comments on infrared analysis of humic substances through friendship with John Goulden [JG], operator of IRS at nearby local National Institute for Research in Dairying [NIRD]. Comments on JG’s interest in structure of humic substances [HS]; use of instrument to separate fractions of HS; complexity of each fraction. [44:14] Detailed description of JT’s theory on formation of HS during decay of plant materials. [45:34] Description of operation of instrument used in fractionating HS.
Life story interview with Professor David Jenkinson, soil scientist