Oral history of British science

McKenzie, Dan (Part 1 of 11). An Oral History of British Science

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Cambridge

  • Interviewees

    McKenzie, Dan, 1942- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Dan Peter McKenzie [DM], born Cheltenham, 1942. Comments on father’s occupation, RAF service in WW2 (World War Two); parents’ marriage, decision to delay children until after WW2. Story of parents’ meeting. Comments on mother’s (Nan Fairbrother) childhood in Leeds, success at grammar school. Story of mother’s interview at Newnham College, University of Cambridge [UOC]. Mention’s mother’s degree, English Literature, Royal Holloway. Story of mother’s occupations following her father’s death, including physiotherapy. [6:48] Comments on mother’s interest in botany, including visits to countryside north of Leeds and book ‘Flowers of the Field’. [7:55] Comments on maternal grandmother. Description of appearance and character of mother. Comments on maternal grandmother’s response to mother’s social mobility. Mentions move from old farmhouse ‘Moat Farm’ to house in centre of Wendover, then newly built house; mother’s lack of comment on own social mobility; loss of accent. Comments on mother’s relations with parents; mother’s character and interests, social relations in London; appearance. [15:57] Description of father’s appearance. Comments on father’s character, second marriage, interests; parents’ relationship; mother’s death due to cancer; father’s jealousy of DM’s success in science. [20:17] Detailed comments on time spent with father (referred to as ‘William’) on bird watching walks along Icknield Way in Aylesbury, including landscape description. [25:06] Stories of time spent with mother as young child. Mentions first school, Aylesbury; mother beginning writing with move to London; relative absence of father; parents’ leftist politics; move to Harley Street, London, 1949; South Kensington School. [30:10] Comments on paternal grandparents. [33:35] Comments on parents view of WW2. Description of first house: ‘Moat Farm’ [MF], near Aylesbury. [38:19] Comments on move to London; parents’ buying of house in Wendover; house built by mother in hills near Wendover, mid 1950s. Description of Harley Street home. [41:43] Story of learning Lord’s Prayer at first school. Mentions own nickname for mother: ‘Dardy’. [44:20] Mentions holidays in West Runton, Norfolk and Pembrokeshire. Further detailed description of Harley Street home. [50:52] Comments on visitors to London home, including Leonard Woolf [LW], mother’s publisher. Description of LW. Mentions correspondence between mother and LW in archive, Sussex University. Mentions mother’s admiration for writing of Virginia Woolf. Story of mother sending first book to Hogarth Press. [54:20] Story of poor performance at school before age 13; unhappiness at school; enjoyment of Euclidian geometry [EG]; rapid change in school performance at Westminster School [WS] connected to puberty and science education, especially physics and chemistry. Comments on mathematics teaching, WS. [57:55] Comments on schooling after move to London: school in South Kensington, Westminster Under School [WUS], WS. [58:38] Description of EG. Comments on reasons for liking EG as ‘logical’ in contrast to own confusion concerning human relations, spelling rules, adults’ annoyance at DM’s school performance. [1:04:32] Further comments on parents’ attitude to DM’s school performance. [1:07:29] Story of WUS geography teacher’s concern with spatial advance of communism.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Professor Dan McKenzie, geophysicist.

  • Related transcripts

    Professor Dan McKenzie 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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