Oral history of British science
Thomson, Janet (Part 4 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 4: Story of appointment as RA’s ‘editorial assistant’ BAS, University of Birmingham [UOB], 1964. Mentions room in house, Edgbaston. Comments on work involved; female colleague Nean Allman [NA]; NA’s work on sub-Antarctic island geology; status as UOB research assistant, seconded to BAS; shared office with NA. [06:33] Comments on differences between NA and JT, in terms of approach to gender equality; NA’s decision to leave BAS; NA’s career in Canada. Description of work for RA’s SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) geology working group mapping programme on Antarctic geology. Mentions map published by RA without acknowledging JT. [11:11] Story of Masters degree work on cabinet of rock samples from South Orkney Islands [SOI], including difficulties in absence of field notes. Mentions use of map. Story of rumours concerning appearance of female geologists. Story of relations with BAS geologist Mike Thomson [MT]; decision to marry. [14:50] Story of JT contacting Drummond Matthews [DM] to ask for field notebooks on rock samples. Mentions DM’s dissertation on structural geology, SOI; own interest in petrology; other sources. Story of disagreement between RA, DM and geographer Derek Maling over geology of SOI in BAS scientific report, 1967. [17:03] Comments on RA’s disapproval of JT’s procurement of DM’s notebooks. Mentions use of photographs supplied by DM; thesis finished October 1967; marriage 1967. Detailed comments on RA: tendency to prevent access of others to field notes/archive material, difficult social relations with male geologists; view of geology of Antarctic Peninsula, ignoring tectonics. [23:12] Long, detailed description of work for SCAR mapping programme. Further comments on RA’s tight control of archive. [32:02] Comments on NA’s annoyance at rule preventing female geologists from going to Antarctica. Mentions use of term ‘FIDs’ to refer to scientists who had been to Antarctica. Story of visit to Southampton to see off research ship John Biscoe [JB] bound for Antarctica; NA’s questioning of male-only rule; RA’s likely response. Mentions standard response: ‘there are no facilities for ladies in the Antarctic’. Comments on influence of armed services history of BAS on male focus. [37:34] Story of coffee time in Research Room 1, leading to relations with MT, including jokey atmosphere. Mentions dress of male geologists. Comments on Antarctic slang. [43:18] Comments on attitude to gender difference of young, male geologists, in contrast to RA’s. Mentions location of other BAS departments. Story of visit to UOB of Vivian Fuchs [VF]. [48:02] Story of development of relationship with MT, including secrecy due to civil service rules, marriage, effect of joining NERC (Natural Environment Research Council).
Life story interview with geologist Janet Thomson