Oral history of British science
Farman, Joseph (Part 1 of 17). An Oral History of British Science.
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Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge
Farman, Joseph, 1930-2013 (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 1: Joseph Farman [JF] Born Norwich, Norfolk. Story of earliest memory. Comments on father’s service in World War One [WW1] and WW2, occupation; mother’s WW1 service as nurse, role as housewife; parents meeting; paternal grandparents; maternal grandparents. [03:40] Story of elder sister living in house in which maternal grandfather had served apprenticeship. Comments on maternal grandfather’s work as carpenter/thatcher. Story of seeing thatchers working in the Norfolk Broads. [05:22] [handling noise] Comments on childhood home, Hellesdon, Norfolk. Description of layout of bungalow. Story of erecting Morrison Shelters in Norwich, 1940. Description of Morrison shelter. [10:53] Detailed description of Morrison shelter assembly. Story of Scout camp, Wroxham, Norfolk, including use of improvised radio equipment. Description of radio equipment. Story of seeing German plane flying over Hellesdon, Norfolk, firing machine guns. Mentions brick street shelters. Comments on appearance of German and British planes; sight/sound of machine guns. Mentions nearby airfield. [15:45] Comments on WW2 incendiary bombing of Norwich. Story of father’s night time Home Guard work. Comments on family reaction to war; father’s view of Winston Churchill; sister’s education. [18:58] Comments on time spent with sister. Story of use of library as a child. Comments on childhood reading, including popular science. Comments on the attraction of reading about planetary scales in contrast to local Norfolk life; development of interest in exploration. [23:23] Story of wartime farmwork; forestry Scout camp, Thetford, Norfolk. Comments on Norfolk landscapes. Story of role in garden at home as child. Comments on radio comedy; wartime austerity. [27:07] Comments on church attendance through Scouts. Story of argument with Bishop, upsetting mother. Detailed comments on nature of faith and science. [31:18] Comments on time spent with mother and father as a child. Story of working on separate, more advanced mathematics at primary school. Comments on primary school teachers, lack of science teaching. [36:32] Description of King Edwards Grammar School [KEGS], Norwich, including chapel. Story of using sledgehammer in detention. Comments on masters; ability in mathematics, science and French. Story of strict of Chemistry master, repairing lawns. Comments on traditional nature of chemistry teaching, in contrast to contemporary developments in atomic understanding. Story of spotting flaw in A-Level physics practical examination. [44:10] Detailed comments on absence on chemistry teaching of (then) up-to-date understanding of atomic behaviour. Story of reading as teenager Arthur Eddington’s [EA] ‘Fundamental Theory’, involving relativistic quantum mechanics. Comments on EA. [47:28] Comments on geography, Latin teaching. Discussion of childhood sense of self. Comments on academic ability; social aspects of KEGS, including playing of sport.
Life story interview with Dr Joseph Farman, Atmospheric Scientist.