Oral history of British science

Shirley, Stephanie (Part 14 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 14: Further remarks on Wirral Autistic Society and their Beatles style autistic band. Comments on virtual city project developed by Nottingham University to allow educationally disabled people to learn to navigate the world. Remarks on: funding schools in Midland, Wales and Edinburgh; funding many projects through Mental Health Foundation. Comments on starting to medically investigate Autism. [03:55] Comments on involvement with Oxford Internet Institute [OII]: Balliol College initiative with involvement of Derek Wyatt and colleagues from WCIT; SS involved with setting strategic goals; enjoying working with postgraduate students developed strategy paper; reasons for involvement because it was involved with strategic social aspects of computing, used money from IT to investigate IT, gave her an academic environment she had missed before. [08:50] Comments on another project involving Balliol to turn a little used church into a home for Balliol's collections, questioning involvement but found board of SF in favour, enjoying project, details of conversion. [12:34] Remarks on: make-up of trustee board of SF; differences in opinion with first medical advisor trustee; Prof Eve Johnson [EJ], the new medical trustee from Edinburgh University; payback for unpaid trustees. [16:00] Remarks on selecting board members for SF: Michael Macfadyen from Charles Russell company who introduced Anne Menzies; difficulties finding medical trustees, EJ suggested by Michael Rutter; similarities with selecting business board. Comments on plans for charity after her life to spend money and wrap up rather than continue forever, disliking the idea of legacies, importance of trustee's advice and teamwork. [22:15] Comments on creativity and importance of keeping fresh, learning from other fields and people in other sectors. Remarks on mentoring other people with story about a mentoring arrangement for a new chairman that didn't work out when she discovered his true personality. [27:07] Comments on impact of dotcom bubble burst in early 2000's on her finances and philanthropy, disliking keeping track of her investments. Story about being offered the chance to became a Lloyd’s exchange name, but turning it down when she discovered the risks, with remarks on entrepreneurs being more cautious than corporate figures and building wealth in her firm. [31:22] Remarks on confidence wealth brings and habit of wealth attracting the less than sincere. Remarks on: updating economic study of autism in 2005; sponsoring a study of the pioneers of autism to create 'A History of Autism' book. [34:55] Comments on recent expenditure being on medical research projects to get at causes of Autism; sponsoring a project to explore Autism on a worldwide basis, looking at causes and treatment methods; focusing her efforts on the causes of Autism through the Kasper project. Comments on Kaspar: involvement of Chuck Gardner and Gerry Dawson from the USA, Simon Baron-Cohen from Cambridge and Peter Goldsworthy; named after Kasper Hauser; virtual project that created a massively expensive plan that was out of SS's means. [41:22] Comments on SS joining the board of the National Alliance for Autism Research [NAAR]: assistance of Roberta d’Eustachio [RD]; bringing in computerised methods through Raiser’s Edge database; creating NAAR UK, in which she had a fund-raising role, later Autism Speaks UK, now Autistica, of which SS is proud. [46:15] Remarks on being proud of Autisica, most strategic, used all her skills, SS now president, well organised. Remarks on autism research: expecting good results shortly; still too fragmented. Comments on building up portfolio of interests and activities after leaving Autiscia, but pacing herself due to health problems, only to be approached by Gordon Brown to become first Ambassador for Philanthropy. [49:30] Further comments on Ambassador for Philanthropy: assistance of RD; heavy workload; started with market survey to find what an Ambassador for Philanthropy should do; limited budget; calling for simplification of charitable tax breaks; creating a fellowship of philanthropists to allow direct access to government and swap advice; importance of small donors to charities; setting up website. [55:52] Further remarks on website: target audience of other philanthropists, promote idea that philanthropy brings pleasure, comments on reasons for giving to charity, website changes to empower charities. [59:50] Remarks on: project with British Banking association to help retail banks make giving easier; creating advisor for philanthropy to make giving a routine activity. Comments on meeting with Commonwealth ministers that led to cooperation with Commonwealth Foundation to encourage philanthropy, with trial schemes in Nigeria, South Africa and Singapore. Remarks on waiting for reappointment under Coalition Government and concentrating on Commonwealth activity at the moment. [1:03:40] Remarks on networks involved with philanthropy: relying a lot of existing networks; lacking access to sport and music; working hard to involve black and Asian foundations but finding differences in giving culture; generosity of Jewish philanthropists; limited government involvement, awaiting reappointment. [1:06:00] Remarks on a typical day: lots of desk work; use of offices in Admiralty Arch for meetings; office support; spending time thinking of concepts and networking; responding to requests for help and advice. [1:08:41] Remarks on being at a stage in her life when she is getting awards and honorary doctorates: loving events as she did not attend university; Gold Medal from institute of management; Presidential Pin for Anglo-American Charity work from Ronald Reagan; Mountbatten award from IEE; lifetime achievement awards from BCS and Local Authority. Discussion of 1980 OBE for services for industry meaning most to her, because it was for innovations in employment and was early in her career. Remarks on later serving on an honours committee. [1:12:55] Remarks on being award a Dame-ship in millennium honours, enjoying presentation ceremonies. Story about 2003 visit to Dortmund, Germany: ceremony to apologise for abuses of Nazi period; doing her best to demonstrate how English she was; discovering that her father had carried his letter of reverence his whole life; thoughts on continuation of people being refugees.

  • 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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