Oral history of British science

Edwards, David (Dai) (Part 1 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Computer Software; Electronics

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Preston

  • Interviewees

    Edwards, David B.G., 1928- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Born March 1928, Tonteg, South Wales. Remarks on university degrees and subsequent job. Hasn't returned home since attending University except for holidays. Description of Tonteg, Taff Valley, power station, trading estate, playing on the Monkey Tump, the remains of a motte and bailey castle. Comments on outdoor entertainments in childhood, helping father gardening and bee-keeping. [06:55] Mentions father being a handicraft master at a school in Beddau. Remarks on limited amenities in Tonteg, going to school in Church Village, where his mother was a primary school teacher. Remarks on Mother: treasurer at Wesleyan Chapel, where she sang and where father was Sunday school master. Remarks on parents being active in chapel, maternal grandfather conducted choir and was a lay preacher, going to church once a day and Sunday School, opinions on chapel goers, not being particularly religious. [11:20] Remarks on father, William Kenfig Edwards: handicraft teacher, taught DE woodwork, which was a bit embarrassing; photographer; wireless enthusiast; built furniture and toys. Remarks on being named after paternal grandfather, a miner who lived in Cwmaman, gave DE sovereigns at Christmas, pipe smoker who died at 85. Remarks on father's death at 62. [15:30] Remarks on decline of mining in South Wales. Comments on parents hopes for him to go to university, father and grandfather helping him with homework, helpful biology teacher aunt. Remarks on teachers in family, teaching himself, teacher daughter who worked in computer industry and moved to the USA. [20:30] Remarks on aunt, generous and helpful, took him on holidays. Remarks on holidays in Pembroke and Gower, visiting mother's sister who was married to a Wesleyan minister. Stories about trip to Paris with Aunt. [25:30] Remarks on trip to London with Aunt, watching Disney films and visiting Lyons tea shop. Comments on school: enjoyed mathematics, influenced by grandfather; attended Pontypridd Grammar School. Remarks on Pontypridd. Story about making lead models with a mould. Remarks on notable Pontypridd residents, such as Tom Jones. [29:05] Comments on school: boys school, but girls in sixth form; desks modified to accommodate women teachers as a result of the war; concentrating on sciences, especially chemistry; French master making him stand on the desk for getting low marks; discipline in school; learning French useful later on. [32:10] Remarks on Chemistry being favourite subject because of practical element, winning a Glamorgan county scholarship to do chemical engineering at Imperial College, but winning a better funded State Science bursary to do physics at Manchester instead and using the county scholarship to do his MSc. [35:20] Remarks on reasons for enjoying maths and physics at school, enjoying building things with Meccano and building radio sets. Remarks on building a crystal radio, reading 'Wireless World', father's help. [38:00] Remarks on father: good father, motivated and helpful to DE, never got into debt, lived in council house rather than getting a mortgage, helped with DE with DIY on his house, built radios. [42:10] Comments on developing knowledge of electronics and valves, technicalities of building a radio in 1930s compared to current practice. [47:10] Remarks on reading as a child: for school work and hobbies, detective stories, comics such as 'The Wizard'; story about getting a TB infection aged 7; boys' stories. Remarks on news stories about heavy water stories in war suggesting later career in nuclear energy via chemical engineering. Remarks on physicists at Manchester: Patrick Blackett [PB], Bernard Lovell, Samuel Tolansky [ST], Genossi[?], foreign and infirm lecturers. [53:20] Remarks on PB's lecturing style. Comments on good secondary school teachers. Remarks on primary school: large classes, problems, fights, walking a mile to school, bus trips to Beddau school for woodwork, school trip to Bristol Zoo, friends at school and in neighbourhood. [59:10] Remarks about visiting friend opposite to play cards or roulette, activities his parents frowned on. Remarks on chapel and morals, a story about missing a piano lesson, spending pocket money on sweets. Comments on neighbours, local power station, grammar school attendance being common amongst friends [1:03:30] Remarks on playing pitch and toss at the railway station on the journey to school, arriving at school late to avoid assembly, local railways used to store American engines during the war. Description of childhood house, front room only used for best occasions, no central heating, outside toilet. Remarks on household technologies: clothes washer, electric cooker, living in the kitchen whilst mother was on holiday, vacuum cleaner, one room coal heated. [1:08:30] Story about grandfather still using candles even after electricity installation. Remarks on mother: interested in Chapel, family, household, did his laundry by post at university, singer. [1:12:15] Comments on hobbies: modelling planes, Meccano, interest in clocks. Comments about listening to the radio. Remarks on taking the 'Daily Chronicle' and 'Radio Times'. [1:16:25] Discussion of politics: labour area and upbringing; father's negative view of underhand practices and nepotism; DE's interview with FCW Williams [FCW] being purely about merit; working class area where well educated people didn't leave to university; politics in community; opinion of current political situation; political ethos of labour in 1930s to fight for people's rights; story about trouble with father's pension; today's debt culture compared to his father's beliefs. [1:26:50] Remarks on: aunt leaving Wales to a job in Horwich after depression; feeling family being quite well off; a car they didn't use often, few other cars except for a friend's uncle's sports car. Comments on making boggies as children to ride down hill. [1:30:45] Comments on Welsh: parents speaking Welsh, Welsh in schools, subject choices at schools, not speaking Welsh himself. Comments on 11plus, important, description of the career misfortunes of a friend who didn't pass 11plus, with reference to importance of looking after people's rights. [1:39:30] Remarks on wartime: being in ATC in school, learning to glide, father air raid warden, rarely bombed but could see glow of fires in Cardiff, playing with unexploded incendiary bombs, parachute mines, not being allowed to attend VE day and VJ day celebrations. [1:43:20] Remarks on never going to pub until he started at Manchester. Remarks on father's support.

  • Description

    Interview with computer scientist and electrical engineer David (Dai) Edwards.

  • Related transcripts

    David (Dai) Edwards interviewed by Tom Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

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

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