Oral history of British science

Lovelock, James (part 1 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Climate Change Science

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Cornwall

  • Interviewees

    Lovelock, James, 1919 - (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: James Lovelock [JL], born July 26th 1919, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire. Description of family home until aged 5: ‘Norton Croft’ [NC] on Icknield Way. Story of grandmother taking JL to aunt in Hitchin and seeing telephone and electric light. [04:57] Comments on being brought up largely by grandparents. Story of first memory involving awareness of world sensed from pram. Comments on status of grandmother as mother; few memories of mother visiting; other adults; few memories of father visiting. [08:53] Story of move from Letchworth to parents shop and home on Brixton Hill, London aged 5. Story trains appearing through winter smog. Description of parents shop on Brixton Hill, including telephone, workshop. Mentions father’s work in restoration of paintings; effect on business of economic ‘depression’; gas lighting. [15:12] Story of father’s work for Gas Company. Mentions father too old for service in WW1 (World War One); father’s illiteracy and innumeracy; status of Gas Company. [18:15] Description of mother’s daily baths, including practical arrangements. Comments on remoteness of relationship with mother; mother’s character. [22:48] Mentions books borrowed from Brixton Library [BL] HG Well’s ‘The Time Machine’, ‘The Island of Dr Moreau’, novels by Jules Verne and Olaf Stapledon. Positive comments on HG Well’s description of the time machine. Mentions reading comics; mother’s disapproval of comics. Comments on unselective nature of pre-pubescent mind; stream trains and steamers as impressive examples of application of science. Story of seeing Flying Scotsman at Hitchin railway station. [28:20] Comments on disorganised, habitual reading of science text books including Wade’s ‘Organic Chemistry’; interest in noxious and dangerous chemicals; mother’s view of this reading in relation to her valuing of education. [32:52] Comments on reading JH Jeans’ ‘Astronomy and Cosmogony’ as example of wide ranging interest in science; amateur history of British science. Mentions dyslexia affecting mathematics. Description of a page in Wade’s ‘Organic Chemistry’. [35:44] Story of reading of Frederick Soddy’s ‘The Interpretation of Radium’ during school holidays aged about 12. Comments on being sent away from London in school holidays to various rural places, including East Anglian farms and the home of a Miss Saunders in Coldharbour near Leith Hill.

  • Description

    Life story interview with James Lovelock, independent scientist, environmentalist, author and researcher.

  • Related transcripts

    James Lovelock 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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