Oral history of British science

Jenkinson, David (Part 7 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 7: Comments on origin of interest in role of soils in the Global Carbon Cycle’ [GCC], especially realisation that ‘global warming’ would increase decomposition of organic matter in soil, leading to increased carbon dioxide emission. Story of discussing this realisation with Alan Wild [AW], Professor of Soil Science, University of Reading. [interviewer’s microphone scratching on cardigan] Story of successful funding bid to Leverhulme Trust; appointment of Denise Adams [DA] to carry out computing work; travel to Department of Soil Science, University of Reading weekly; DJ and AW ‘feeding in’ data, including soil and weather data; widely referenced ‘Nature’ paper. Description of GCC findings, including confirmation of positive feedback: warming, increased carbon dioxide emission from soils, warming. Comments on extending GCC study through relations with Peter Cox [PC] at UK Met Office Hadley Centre [HC]; positive feedback of carbon dioxide smaller than that predicted by HC’s relatively simple modelling of soil carbon turnover. Story of DA marrying and leaving University of Reading to care for twins as single parent. [05:17] Comments on use of published collection of global weather data and world soil maps in GCC work; graph displayed in ‘Nature’ paper showing release of carbon dioxide by soil. [06:51] Description of typical weekly visit to Department of Soil Science, University of Reading for GCC work with AW and DA. Comments on DA as colleague. [09:10] Mentions GCC work as first example of global scale analysis of emission of carbon dioxide by soil; incorporation into larger global circulation models. Story of PC seeking improved soil model through Pete Falloon [PF] at RES. Comments on modelling work as theoretical. Mentions PC’s description of a computer run as an experiment; effect of incorporating improved soil model at Hadley Centre in generating less alarmist predictions; role of PF in incorporating improved soil model into HC model. [12:18] Comments on own view of use of Atmospheric-Ocean General Circulation Models [AOGCM] to predict beyond 2050. Mentions sense of self as ‘amateur’ in climate change field. Comments on coarseness of resolution of AOGCMs; single ‘compartment’ used in HC’s own soil model. [15:19] Story of writing introduction to climate change for youngest son entitled ‘Climate Change a short introduction for anyone who has to do something about it’; attempt to publish this document; intention to publish on RES website; intended readership. [17:58] Detailed comments on current revisions to ROTH C. Mentions not wishing to retire at sixty; publications since retirement; weekly visits to RES to discuss continuing work. [19:38] Influence of childhood experiences on particular view of value of applications of science and engineering in agriculture, including story of seeing converted cars used as mowing machines. [22:28] Detailed comments on existing and future contribution of chemistry to agricultural improvement. [25:36] Mentions damage to Genetically Modified crops grown at RES as protest. Comments on GM crops, including need to consider public concerns; value of chemistry in agriculture; difficulty in predicting future agricultural applications of chemistry [28:06]. Comments on public image of chemistry in relation to popular distinctions between natural and artificial substances, including related story of uncle’s dog poisoned by strychnine intended for foxes; limits of organic farming. Story of visiting recently field of organic wheat. Further comments on organic farming ‘movement’. [32:58] Detailed comments on masculinity of science in period of DJ’s career, including effect of childcare on careers of female scientists. [39:12] Comments on archiving of some notebooks at RES. [41:10] Reasons for focus in most of career on soil, including tendency for scientists not to change specialism. [44:15] Comments on experience of being interviewed for National Life Stories.

  • 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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