Oral history of British science

Shirley, Stephanie (Part 4 of 15). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Computer Software

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Henley-on-Thames

  • Interviewees

    Shirley, Stephanie, 1933- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 4: Comments on Abbots Bromley: Horn Dancers, wartime concrete fortifications. Further remarks on: Uncle's inventiveness around the home; his invention of a type of prefabricated house and SS surprise at first seeing fitted kitchen in one. [06:09] Remarks on Uncle's invention of a step stool and pressed metal furniture. [07:40] Comments on sister Renate: older; sibling rivalry; not close until teens; ahead in school until she contracted Polio, which was treated with Penicillin at Park Hall Hospital; English and art skills, rather than scientific; scholarship to Oxford; forceful; story about Renate convincing SS she had an artificial heart; [14:15] different appearance to SS; disliked sport; studied childcare at Exeter, where she worked for the Harvey Family, academics whose work on artificial insemination resulted in a crop of local children sharing characteristics of Professor Harvey. [17:15] Remarks on sister's long affair with Roland, broken by sister's emigration to Australia. Remarks on sister not settling in England, [short pause] not taking British citizenship, taking Australian citizenship, settling well in Australia and did good work in adoption services. [22:05] Remarks on sister marrying, not having children, adopted daughter Clare. [short pause phone] Further remarks on sister's affair with Roland Bishop [RB]: problems caused by RB's personality. Remarks on RB: brought up and possibly abused grandson, when son Michael was working in merchant navy. [Closed between 25:38 – 27:30 until 2042]. [27:33] Remarks on family being aware of affair, SS and Renate moving to London, RB almost emigrating to Australia. Remarks on Renate's adopted daughter Clare, contact with birth family after Renate's death. [30:55] Remarks on: breakup of Renate's marriage; Renate and Clare living with SS after moving from Sidney; benefits and drawbacks of sharing with large extended family; SS's feelings about Renate's death. [35:29] Remarks on Renate's foster children: Alvin, Mervin and another boy. Detailed comments on Alvin's life. [40:55] Remarks on: reasons for helping extended family; becoming attuned to problems of unaccompanied children; situation of unaccompanied children today; importance of saying thank you; extended family enriching her own life. [45:14] Remarks on moving from foster family to live near mother in Oswestry but remaining close to them. Comments on influence of foster parents on her: patriotic, interested her in English music; expected high standards; development of a sense of duty, with reference to Edward VIII's abdication. [50:20] Remarks on confusion when she arrived in England, sister providing stability, Aunty and Uncle buying her English clothing. Remarks on: food and clothing parcels from America, wartime shortages, not being conscious that Uncle was well off. Anecdote about father teaching sister useless English phrases. Remarks on learning English, limited need for English for refugees in certain jobs. [56:00] Remarks on friend Sylvia, older kindertransport child, possibly abused, moved away. Remarks on: slum children in the countryside, class system in UK; importance of mixing with different people, with reference to national service and father's experiences; remarks on being brought up to certain class standards. [1:00:20] Remarks on trauma of leaving foster parents. Comments on pet dog, Topsy Mary Buchthal Smith: left behind on move to Oswestry, sold as a pedigree but not, killed neighbour's chickens. Remarks on reading avidly when was growing up, Aunty visiting library, reading mainly for learning at school, enjoying AA Milne and Rupert Bear in the 'Daily Mail', learning poetry. [1:06:32] Remarks on: being studious and loving to learn; fascinated by Greek Tragedies; piano lessons; interested in listening to music more than playing. Remarks on not enjoying biology, girls limited science education at schools, factual nature of history and geography classes. [1:10:12] Comments on beauty of mathematics, similarity to classical music, not understanding applied maths well. Story about mother occasionally wearing a Swastika in Germany to fit in. Story about being horrified by seeing a graffiti swastika in Buckinghamshire and taking action to remove it. Remarks on difficulties of Judaism.

  • Description

    Interview with entrepreneur, computer scientist and philanthropist Dame Stephanie 'Steve' Shirley.

  • Related transcripts

    Dame Stephanie Shirley interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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