Oral history of British science

Thomson, Janet (Part 5 of 8). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, North Yorkshire

  • Interviewees

    Thomson, Janet, 1942- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: Comments relating to session one: descriptions of toaster and of heating element in first childhood home, Amblecote; story of Polish lodgers. [05:16] Comments on differences between departments of geology at BC and UOB, including relative formality and maleness of latter; formality of BAS as organisation until move to Cambridge, 1976. Mentions effect on BAS geology department of change in leadership from RA to Charles Swithinbank [CS]; possible effect of VF. Comments on relations between RA and VF. [11:30] Comments on ‘male dominated’ geology department, UOB; effect on career of BAS ban on women in field; relations between BAS staff and academic geologists. Comments on breaks at BC and UOB. Mentions hierarchy at UOB concerning dining areas, common rooms, coffee rooms; promotion to Research Associate. [18:41] Comments on feelings at hearing stories of others’ Antarctic experiences, being limited to rock samples collected by male geologists. Story of making photographic prints from DM’s negatives from Antarctic fieldwork; making prints for thesis. Comments on use of DM’s photographs in relation to samples and station map. Description of DM’s field notebooks. [25:44] Comments on RA’s control of geology archive. Story of move of geology archive from RA room, UOB, to RA’s Cambridge garage; sorting of garage by CS, Peter Clarkson [PC] after RA’s death. [28:53] Description of geological notes in DM’s notebooks. Comments on use of geological ‘stations’ and ‘station registers’. Mentions DOS (Directorate of Overseas Surveys) maps of Coronation Island (CI) and Signy Island (SI), Antarctica. Comments on use of DM’s sketches to identify sites of samples. Mentions numbering system for stations; numbering of DM’s negatives. [36:20] Comments on desire to visit DM’s field sites in Antarctica; difficulties of geological fieldwork in Antarctica. Detailed comments on feelings at exclusion from fieldwork due to gender. [40:15] Mentions discussing wish to visit Antarctica with MT; persistent appeals to RA; NA’s campaign to open Canadian mines to women. Description of letter from BAS to enquiry from female scientists concerning Antarctic fieldwork, late 1960s, penned by Bill Sloman, Executive Secretary. Comments on effect of letter on own appetite for equality. Comments on stridency of contemporary feminist movements; concerns about effect on husband’s career of own agitations. Mentions employment of BAS geologists by oil companies. [49:00] Comments on coverage of feminist campaigns on radio/in newspapers; own wish to pursue interests differently. [50:13] Story of work between 1967 (handing-in of thesis) and 1975 (resignation from BAS), including report writing, mapping, work on collections of rock samples, editorial work for RA. Comments on lack of work in periods of RA’s absence. Story of resignation, 1975, while RA, MT and CS in Antarctica. Mentions move of geology (with glaciology, geophysics) to CS’s ‘Earth Sciences’ division, 1973. Story of CS’s attempt to prevent JT’s resignation by persuading BAS to allow Antarctic fieldwork. Comments on voluntary work reading geology and geography textbooks onto tape for RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People); move to Cambridge. [1:01:36] Story of SCAR conference on geology, Oslo, 1970, including significant contact: Ian Dalziel [ID] (Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, Columbia University); ID’s interest in SOI, Antarctica; invitation on SOI expedition with ID and MT on research ship ‘Hero’. [1:07:21] Comments on CS’s attempt to dissuade JT from resignation; CS’s view of gender issue. Story of telephone call from Dick Laws [DL] accepting JT’s resignation. Comments on DL’s view of JT as ‘stroppy’. Mentions meal with DL after own retirement. Story of avoiding DL on visit to UOB. [1:14:25] Description of Edgbaston flat occupied after marriage. Mentions doing majority of domestic work at home. Comments on relations with mother. Mentions dislike of telephone conversations; correspondence with mother; hand-made presents. Comments on mother’s disappointment that JT did not have children. Mentions retirement of uncle; sale of orchard at Purley; mother’s move with uncle to South Devon; BAS holiday entitlement. [1:22:24] Comments on reasons for not having own children. Story of move to house in Boxworth, Cambridgeshire, 1976. Comments on ID’s Antarctic cruise on Hero, January 1977, including invitation to join with MT; other members of cruise. Detailed description of geological aims of Hero cruise to SOI, including link with plate tectonic understanding of formation of ‘Scotia Arc’. [1:37:23] Story of landings from ‘Hero’, including effect of weather; fall of JT into sea caused by swell; landing in island to look in vain for graptolite fossils, affected by penguin guano. [1:44:59] Description of taking ‘clean’ sample from centre of ‘dykes’ for laboratory radiometric dating. Mentions sites of laboratories: Columbia University, Leeds University, British Geological Survey, Nottingham. Comments on reliability of radiometric results. Description of graphical results. [1:49:47] Detailed description of process of taking geological samples. Mentions value of larger samples for multiple forms of analysis. Description of process of storing and labelling samples; field notebooks; process of making notes. Comments on use of DOS map of CI, Powell Island [PI], Nicholson Island [NI]; use of compass bearings to known peaks, photographs.

  • Description

    Life story interview with geologist Janet Thomson

  • Related transcripts

    Janet Thomson 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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