Oral history of British science

Glen, John (Part 8 of 10). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Geophysics; Glaciology

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Birmingham

  • Interviewees

    Glen, John, 1927- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: Description of contribution to Richard West’s [RW] studies of orientation of stones in till deposits. Mentions meeting RW in CC; Harry Godwin also in CC. Story of fieldwork on cliffs, Cromer, Norfolk. Description of former movement of stones found at right angles to others. Comments on RW’s wider work; RW’s car and boat on Norfolk Broads. [7:27] Brief comments on awareness, not involvement in International Geophysical Year [IGY], 1957-58. [9:27] Story of church attendance from point of move to Birmingham, including mention of accompanying daughter; development of pattern of church attendance since, involving two Sunday services: early morning Anglican service, then (with wife) United Reform Church [URC], William Hill; construction of new Anglican church Shenley Green [SG]; role as Warden, SG; involvement on Birmingham’s Deanery Synod [DS], then Diocesan Synod [DS] from 1973, then General Synod [GS] of CofE 1975-85 ; relations between DS (for) and representatives of DS on GS (against) votes on ordination of women. Comments on meetings of GS. [15:22] Description of work on GS. Detailed comments on own positive view of women’s involvement in church, related to own interpretation of Bible; currents debates around management of those opposed. [19:11] Mentions interest in writings of religious scientists including John Polkinghorne. Comments on reasons for physical scientists’ openness to religious arguments, in contrast to biologists. Story of involvement of physicists in CC chapel. Positive comments on John Robinson’s book ‘Honest to God’. Discussion of own rational rather than fundamental faith. [23:28] Comments on interest in gardening; influence of Bourneville Village Trust rules. [26:51] Story of involvement in Birmingham Disocean Education Committee, 1980-, including relations with Hugh Montefiore; Administrative Chapter and Fabric Advisory Committee, Birmingham Cathedral 1985-. [34:09] Story of work on UOB committees, including change in standards of dress. [39:47] Comments on own physics of ice in contrast to ‘quantum physics’ [QP]; effect of counter intuitive findings of QP in supporting openness concerning religious belief; teaching of QP in course on energy. Mentions use of JN’s Physical Properties of Crystals as textbook in teaching; distinction between status as ‘solid state’ physicist, not ‘nuclear or particle’ physicist. [44:52] Comments on belief in a created, ordered universe; effect on recent realisation of size of universe on potential for religious ‘awe’; folder around thesis containing quotes from Bible concerning ice; religious motivation for scientific work. [48:36] Comments on discussion of links between science and religion with other scientists, including RWT, certain Japanese glaciologists. Story of work on ice with VP; VP’s move to US; VP’s co written ice physics book with RWT; VP’s surprise at JG’s church attendance. [52:42] Brief comments on relations with non-religious scientists. [54:09] Mentions use of computer in search for glaciological literature, shortly before retirement from UOB; retirement present of PC; use of subsequent PCs for email/paper editing; lack of use of computers UOB; RWT’s computer use; Computer Science Department, UOB; use of computers by PD’s nuclear physicists. [58:53] Detailed comments on successful application of ‘Glen flow law’ (findings of CL compression tests) in actual, field conditions. [1:06:18] Detailed comments on historical interest in climate change indicated by glacier movement, including anxiety over advance of Baffin Island Ice Cap over Canada; own view of current climate change concerns. [1:12:48] Mentions memories of discussion in 1960s/70s about ‘shrinking’ of Antarctica. Comments on possible inadequacy of surface experiments to reveal Antarctic changes; reasons for doubting predictions/models of climate change; computer modelling of climate. [1:16:29] Comments of sharing of glaciological data internationally. Mentions role on committee concerned with World Data Centres [WDC], established during IGY. [1:18:06] Story of involvement in organising international conferences on Physics and Chemistry of Ice, from 1969-2006. [1:22:11] Comments on focus of glaciology in certain countries on national ‘ice problems’: Canada (ice storms), Japan (high snowfall); possible link between success of British fundamental glaciological research and lack of such problems. Discussion of this idea in US context. Story of HB’s negative view of move of SIPRE from Illinois to New Hampshire (as CRREL). Comments on origin of own research in MP’s wartime PH. [1:28:23] Story of roles in committees on international scientific editing, including UNESCO’s ‘Editerra’ and European Association of Science Editors [EASE]. Description of work of scientific editor. [1:38:46] Comments on decisions made in accepting papers for JOG; period of high rejections in geomorphology; changes in papers over period of editorship; selection of referees. [1:44:46] Stories of relations with elderly parents/parents-in-law, including caring role, deaths. Comments on effect on self of parents’ deaths; mother’s avoidance of hospitalisation. Story of father-in-law’s loss of employment, Canada, move to Birmingham; mother-in-law’s fall on ice; death of father-in-law. [151:56] Story of daughter Marion’s education including CC/NST, rowing, marriage (to physicist), medical career Oxford, daughters (one at CC); son James’ marriage, education, careers, children. [1:57:10] Story of son James noticing ‘Glen’s flow law’ in school geography textbook. Comments on extent of children’s interest in own work. [1:58:28] Comments on own archive. Mentions official photographer on Austerdalsbreen expeditions [Judith Thomas].

  • Description

    Life story interview with Dr John Glen, physicist.

  • Related transcripts

    Dr John Glen 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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