Oral history of British science

Jenkinson, David (Part 4 of 7). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Climate Change Science

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Hertfordshire

  • Interviewees

    Jenkinson, David, 1928-2011 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 4: Stories of rules at TC controlling contact between men and women. [01:35] Description of analysis of fractions of HS separated by instrument; findings of infrared spectroscopy of humic fractions, including present amide bonds and absent lignins. [05:00] Description of use and paper output of IRS. [08:12] Discussion of use of references on known spectra. Description of working relationship with friend at NIRD, Dr John Goulden [JG]. Comments on speed of IRS; JG’s contribution. Comments on opinion that findings were unsurprising. Mentions confidence in output of IRS. Detailed comments on JT’s influence on DJ in terms of valuing of ‘analytical chemistry’ in agricultural chemistry [AC]; neglect of AC in OC at TC. Description of AC as particular form of chemistry, including use of AC in study of soil and plants as complex mixtures, contrast to focus on structure of pure compounds at TC. Comments on admiration for JT as ‘analyst’; JT’s commitment to repetition of analysis to verify results, care in preparing sample, attention to analytical techniques. [11:17] Comments on living arrangements during two and a half years at DAC; correspondence with future wife. [12:26] Comments on taking DAC students to Rothamsted Experimental Station [RES] to look at Classical Experiments, begun 1843; relations with scientists at RES including Jack [John] Bremner [JB]. Story of JB asking DJ to apply for post of Scientific Officer when DAC temporary contact nearing end; working without supervision in first year at RES as JB in US; working with JB in second year but collaboration affected by JB’s interest in Professorship elsewhere. Positive comments on JB as scientist. [15:33] Comments on tendency for JB to direct DJ in areas of JB’s own interests, especially inorganic chemistry of nitrogen in soil: nitrogen fixing, denitrification of nitrates, analysis of ‘total nitrogen’. [16:32] Comments on JB’s research on soil nitrogen in US; DJ’s own interest in dynamics of soil organic matter. Story of JB’s negative reaction to DJ’s building of growth chamber to produce plant material uniformly labelled with C14. Description of growth chamber. Mentions JB not commenting on DJ’s own research in spite of collaboration on analytical chemistry of carbon. [19:33] Story of arrival in first year of Cooke Yarborough isotope mass spectrometer [CYIMS] built at RAF Harwell, Oxford, ordered by JB. Comments on improvised nature of CYIMS; limitations of CYIMS in intended work on labelled N15. [20:55] Description of operation of CYIMS. Comments on superiority of later commercial mass spectrometers; limits of CYIMS in field experiments where applied N15 is small in relation to existing soil nitrogen; influence of JT on own preference for work on soil organic matter. Mentions working at RES on interests developed at DAC. [23:24] Description of study of decomposition of labelled ryegrass in soil samples over ten years at RES. Comments on origins of link with Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria; role of assistant in work on labelled ryegrass. [27:32] Description of methods of analysing samples of soils containing labelled ryegrass, stored outside in cylinders with glass fibre bottoms; technique used by technician to measure radioactivity of sample using instrument. Description of conditions of storage of soil samples in field at RES, including problem of contamination by ants.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Professor David Jenkinson, soil scientist

  • Related transcripts

    David Jenkinson interviewed by Paul Merchant: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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