Oral history of British science
Vine, Fred (Part 3 of 12). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewees home, Norwich
Vine, Frederick, 1939- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 3: Further comments on childhood toys, including Meccano; career interest in civil engineering; current desire for Hornby Dublo; childhood use of maps. [3:45] Comments on physical geography interest of geography teachers, LUS. Story of geography fieldtrip, Castleton, Derbyshire, including visit to coalmine. [5:47] Comments on involvement in Geographical Society, LUS; reasons for not studying geography in Sixth Form, including higher status of mathematics, physics, chemistry in University of Cambridge [UOC] application; value of publishing percentages with grades. Mentions negative view of chemistry/chemistry master. [10:24] Comments on UOC Natural Sciences Tripos [NST]. Story of dropping chemistry for geology in NST. [11:25] Comments on status of geography as science/non-science; distinction between ‘hard science’ and ‘social science’. Negative comments on disciplinary boundaries in traditional universities by 1960s. Mentions advances made in application of one science to another. Comments on own view of mathematics, physics and chemistry (in that order) as ‘central sciences’. Mentions JJ Thomson’s characterisation of other sciences ‘stamp collecting’. Comments on sharing this view regarding UOC geology. [14:14] Comments on O-Level geography, linked to recent finds in loft. Story of discussing memory of textbook containing map of continental drift with former geography teachers, recently. [17:17] Positive comments on teaching of science, LUS. Story of physics teacher, ‘A F (Bud) Abbot’ making equipment, writing textbooks, teaching well. Mentions Wimshurst machine; ‘Daniels Cells’, ‘bridges’. Comments on reasons for not liking chemistry; chemistry teacher. [22:23] Story of spending ‘merit halves’ (free afternoons) with friend at Imperial Institute, Kew Gardens London. Mentions cadets/scouts; church youth club; swimming; cricket; rowing. [26:42] Comments on parents’ regular churchgoing as feature of community life. Mentions mother’s membership of Mothers’ Union. Detailed comments on particular form of own religious life; view of religion and atheism; concern for source of childhood morality in absence of religion; history of Christian missionaries as ‘civilising influence’. Negative comments on Richard Dawkins. Positive comments on popularity of monarchy, in spite of media characterisation. Story of effect of royal attendance at 350th Anniversary Royal Society, Royal Festival Hall. [39:47] Comments on parents’ morality/expectations: honestly, avoidance of debt. Mentions Christian school assemblies. [41:49] Comments on parents different voting habits; awareness of self as lower middle class as child. [43:47] Story of own teaching of mathematics, LUS; period of office work between LUS and St John’s College [SJ], UOC; teaching as ‘Form Master’. [53:11] Description of situation of college rooms, SJ. Mentions friend David Constable [DC]. [55:13] Comments on teaching of mathematics, Part 1, NST. Mentions wife was student, Newnham College. Comments on relation between excellence in teaching and research, UEA (University of East Anglia). [58:52] Mentions poor teaching, physics, Part 1, NST. Negative comments on teaching of geology. Mentions wife’s employment: Open University tutor, Earth Sciences. Further negative comments on teaching of physics, including quantum physics. Comments on close relations between geophysics and ‘classical’ physics. [1:03:38] Comments on nature and extent of coverage of continental drift [CD] in Part 1 geology. Story of tutorial involving comment on world fossil distribution maps. Mentions recent conversation with UOC friend Joe Can about extent of belief in CD among UOC lecturers while FV undergraduate. [1:05:47] Story of involvement in UOC societies, including Rover Scouts/Ranger Guides [RSRG]. Mentions meeting wife through RSRG; role as Assistant Scout Leader pre UOC. Further stories of RSRG. Story of involvement in educational Arnold Society, Youth Group and Sedgwick Club (geological society). Mentions lack of sporting interest. [1:09:36] Comments on reasons for interest in youth work/educational societies through stories of development of childhood interests. Story of school presentation on civil engineering project, Canada, based on reading ‘Canada Review’; unsuccessful talk as primary school ‘School Captain’; successful speech as stage manager for school arts society ‘The Gild’. [1:15:52] Comments on civil engineering career interest. Story of development/realisation of interest in working with young people as late teenager, through scouting and success as school prefect in junior part of LUC and later ‘Form Master’. Comments on role of trust in education; correspondence between early educational ambitions and later University teaching. [1:20:10] Comments on teaching of geology, Part 2, NST, UOC, including teaching of geophysics by members of Department of Geodesy and Geophysics [DGG], (Madingley Rise [MR]).
Interview with geologist Professor Fred Vine.