Oral history of British science
Thomson, Janet (Part 2 of 8). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee’s home, North Yorkshire
Thomson, Janet, 1942- (speaker, female)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 2: Comments on time spent as child with mother: shopping in Stourbridge; dog walking. Description of dancing classes. Mentions sense of child self as cautious. Negative comments on performing (dance) at Christmas performances/summer carnivals. Story of one performance: JT eating carrot, back to audience in rabbit costume; sister doing can-can. Mentions photographs of this. Comments on lifelong aversion to performing. [07:05] Story of relations with cleaning lady and her husband. [10:15] Stories of camping/boating holidays from Purley. Comments on reading with/to mother. Mentions own early competency in reading; sisters dyslexia. Story of interest in needlework, related to mother’s own skill; family picnic cycle rides. Mentions visits to Kinver Edge; mother’s enjoyment of eating outside. [16:26] Comments on books read as child. Mentions AA Milne; ‘Little Grey Rabbit’. Comments on mother’s own reading. [19:12] Description of landscapes experienced as a child, especially woods, hills and rivers. Stories of holiday experiences. Comments on enjoyment of woodland. Story of conversation on first visit to Antarctica in which JT suggested the landscape might be improved by trees. [24:17] Detailed comments on relations with sister as a child. Mentions effect on home of sister leaving it; differences between self and sister. Comments on preference for non-fiction as early teen: Hans Hass adventures including Kon-Tiki Expedition, uncle’s books on adventurous sailing. Mentions reading detective fiction as child and adult. Story of receiving and coming to know book on British flowers; collecting, identifying and pressing flowers. Mentions primary school collection of identified wildflowers. Story of collecting blackberries with mother. [32:39] Comments on teaching and learning at private junior school. Story of listing to school service radio programmes and films. Mentions lack of science teaching. Story of effect of schooling of move, 1951 including relief at discovery father not rejoin family; two terms without schooling; joining private school in Tilehurst, at which mother taught, 1952 (aged 9). [39:34] Comments on Tilehurst school, including headmistress, exercise books, journey to school. [42:37] Comments on Wallingford Grammar School [WGS] including journey to school, streaming, gender differences in curriculum, enjoyment of languages, geography and science, dislike of mathematics and history. Story of choice between science and domestic science; choice of geography rather than history, in spite of set school gender division in humanities. Mentions few female geography students. Comments on reasons for preferring geography to history, including positive description of geography master. Comments on teaching of geography. Mentions absence of fieldwork. [52:10] Comments on academic rivalry between two boys and girls, including JT. Story of taking part in Dudley Stamp’s [DS] Land Utilisation Survey of Britain [LUS] while at girls’ school, near Didcot. Story of move from WGS to Didcot School. [56:11] Comments on teaching of physics at WGS. Description of physics laboratory. Mentions three-quarters of students male. Comments on teaching of chemistry at WGS. Mentions experiments and demonstrations. [1:02:01] Comments on staff nicknames; feelings about move from co-education to girls only school; preference for male teachers; male academic rivals at WGS. [1:05:01] Comments on teaching of geography at Didcot school. Mentions absence of fieldwork except for LUS. Description of physical geography teaching in 5th Form. Story of PE (Physical Education) teaching use of maps at WGS. [1:09:40] Comments on origin of work for LUS. Description of LUS survey materials; practices of LUS fieldwork. Mentions mother’s role as driver. [1:12:04] Comments on teaching of chemistry, Didcot school. Mentions reasons for not studying A-Level chemistry; opting for physics, mathematics, geography; related decision to read science degree. Story of change from interest in studying Latin, to science, including wish to avoid teaching career. Comments on preference for physical (rather than political or economic) geography. Mentions use of geology book during A-Levels. [1:16:08] Comments on desire to pursue different interests from those of family, including sister; reasons for favouring geology. Mentions omission of botany in education. Comments on interest in coastal geological outcrops seen on family holidays; books on volcanoes/catastrophes borrowed from Reading Public Library. [1:20:41] Comments on ‘drift’ into geology, rather than active choice; impression that geography would necessarily lead to career in teaching, rather than science. Mentions being aware of published work on continental drift/plate tectonics by Wilson at end of degree, 1964.
Life story interview with geologist Janet Thomson