Oral history of British science

Dommett, Roy (Part 17 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Fleet

  • Interviewees

    Dommett, Roy, 1933- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Performers

    Dommett, Marguerite, 1931- (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 17: Remarks on MD's appendicitis c1948: serious ill; leaving her a year behind at school, meaning she was in same class as RD; being told she couldn't have children. Story about an interview at St Thomas' to train as a doctor, rejected as interviewer thought she would take a place better occupied by a man, with remarks on RD and MD planning for future. [05:45] Remarks on: studying pharmacy at Portsmouth: friends Michael and David; anecdote about opinions about her wearing earrings; upset about not being allowed to be a doctor; anecdote about her family background in nursing. [07:45] Comments on giving birth, with story about an out of body experience while giving birth, and remarks on difficulties. [14:15] Remarks on: regretting not going into medicine; knowing RD was diabetic long before diagnosis. Discussion about spiritual beliefs: MD believing she was intended to go into medicine; family background of spiritual experiences, MD's mother foreseeing disasters, such as the R101 crash, and son Steven's out of body experience. [22:25] Discussion about spirituality and science: scientific models, God, the universe, comparison of science and history. [31:20] Comments on limitations of models with example of early supersonic flight work postwar: details of Kutta condition, reference to film 'The Sound Barrier', limitations of early wind tunnels, [37:25] problems with transonic speeds, slender body theory, area rule; Buccaneer design; use of area rule because it worked rather than because it was understood theoretically; limitations of computer power; modern supercritical wing design on airliners. [41:20] Comments on developments in structural engineering over his career, practical checks on theoretical methods, testing of Prentice training aircraft to destruction to discover spread of load conditions. [44:10] Remarks on RD and MD early relationship: both chosen to organise drama contest at school, knowing each other socially at school; start of relationship, RD not asking MD to dance but walking her home after the dance; walking trips; going to different colleges but meeting up; both working for post office; cinema trips. [49:05] Remarks on: parental views of their relationship; Roy inheriting brains from mother, who had to leave school early. Remarks on: relationship when MD was at London and RD what Farnborough: MD dancer at Princess Margaret's visit; MD pharmacist in London; MD's flat in London and surrounding mixed race area of ill repute near Clapham Common; comparison of London to bomb damaged Southampton; [55:00] MD's gentleman admirer when she lived in the YWCA and other male friends; Roy's weekly journey to MD from Frimley to London in time for breakfast, after which RD would explore London exhibitions, where he once met Cliff Richard and the Shadows; deciding to get married and MD moving to Farnborough areas; anecdote about timing of wedding; story about MD's visit to an unhelpful doctor for contraception; [1:01:05] RD busy with Blue Streak work at time of marriage; arrangements and furnishing for first homes; anecdote about RD being sent to Australia on the day they moved house in 1967. [1:03:25] Discussion on what MD's knowledge of RD's work: thought he was working on aeroplanes; early conversation between RD and MD about his work; RD's advanced household purchases while on a 1962 trip on USA; anecdote about their children at school. [1:07:10] Remarks on RD's interviewing colleagues such as Tom Kerr and Derek Dalton, with reference to the lack of continuity in colleagues' careers, RD's position as an RAE corporate memory to people such as Peter Jones. [1:11:10] Remarks on RD's trip to the USA: invited by Americans in 1980s as independent view on SDI; differences between UK and US approaches to problems. Remarks on: MD's friend Colonel Fennel, who was involved in church organisation; anecdote about MD being invited to afternoon tea by quizzical upper class neighbours; [1:16:30] anecdote about RD and MD at a formal dinner, RD telling an Air Marshall about his low ranking family connections to the RAF, MD sitting next to representative of Prince Michael of Kent. [Closed between 01:17:35-01:17:49] Remarks on: class consciousness; neighbours Edwards and Thorns; house moves, move to an estate largely inhabited by Blackbushe Airport crews; neighbours over the years. [1:21:00] Remarks on: secrecy over RD's work, MD learning about when when it appeared in the paper, children not knowing anything; busyness of RD with travel for ELDO and Dazzle, when RD became diabetic; RD and MD involvement with local pantomimes from 1963; period spent living in a caravan while waiting for a house; getting involved more in local than RAE social events; cycling to work; shopping arrangements in Reading and Fleet. [1:27:50] Remarks on children: eight live children, three miscarriages, only one girl, MD technically being an elderly mother. Remarks on people knowing them through social activities, such as dance class, rather than through RD's work, with anecdote about being at a dance in Sheffield when JFK was assassinated. Anecdote about council opinions on their family and importance of family activities.

  • Description

    Interview with rocket scientist and aeronautical engineer Roy Dommett

  • Related transcripts

    Roy Dommett interviewed by Dr Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

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

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