Oral history of British science

Laughton, Anthony (Part 2 of 12). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Surrey

  • Interviewees

    Laughton, Anthony, 1927- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 2: Mentions sharing chemistry laboratory bench with grandson of Charles Darwin. Comments on practical work in physics, MS. Mentions winning ‘minor’ scholarship in science, Kings College [KC], University of Cambridge [UOC]. Brief comments on teaching of geography, MS. Comments on effect of petrol rationing on school sports/fieldwork; involvement in sport, music MS. Story of learning to play/playing French Horn; singing in chapel choir; acting in Hamlet. [5:03] Story of activities as Sea Cadet Corps [SCC], MS. [8:15] Mentions Conservative politics of parents. Comments on father’s positive valuing of private education, linked to sense of own educational disadvantage. Mentions mother’s alarm at father’s varying inter-war income. Comments on negative effect on father of WW2 work assessing bomb damage. Story of mother’s breast cancer, diagnosed during WW2. Mentions mother’s death 1945. Story of joining Navy, 1944. Story of ‘moral sciences’ course, UOC, 1945; activities of six month Naval ‘Short Course’; playing of FH in UOC orchestra. Mentions mother’s funeral, August 1945. [17:27] Comments on lack of contact with parents while at MS, UOC; discussions with dying mother. Positive comments on mother’s ability to listen sympathetically. Comments on effect of WW2 on responses to death; effect on father of mother’s death. [20:01] Story of Navy training, beginning autumn 1945, including sailing in Plymouth Sound; sailing of repaired 14 foot sailing dingy on Thames during WW2. [23:22] Comments on own enjoyment of sailing. [25:00] Description of bombed Plymouth. Continued story of Navy training, involving limited seagoing, navigation training on tricycles. [30:34] Story of failure of ‘dahn’ buoy laying HMS Juliet; minesweeping work in Thames Estuary; interception of Jewish migrants en route to Israel. Description of Jewish migrants on merchant ship. [39:44] Comments on reasons for lack of live mines encountered; degaussing of ships. [42:09] Comments on relations between sailors on ship. Description of Navy punishments; deck cleaning. [44:35] Description of Navy training in ways of commanding others. Story of commanding much older, experienced Chief Petty Officer. Brief comments on Navy slang. [47:23] Story of demobilisation, 1948, including work at research laboratory, British Aluminium [BA], Chalfont Park, Buckinghamshire. Comments on messiness of laboratory work, BA. Mentions starting at UOC, October 1948. [51:11] Description of work in photography department, BA. Story of building equipment for home photography processing. Description of enlarger. [53:51] Comments on Natural Sciences Tripos [NST], including subjects: Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Mineralogy (Year 1 and 2); Physics (Year 3). Mentions Year 3 lectures by Paul Dirac [PD] (quantum theory), Lawrence Bragg [LB] (classical physics), Brian Pippard [BP] (low temperature physics). Comments on distinction between ex-servicemen and others. Mentions playing in UOC orchestra; rugby, rowing in ‘gentlemen’s eight’, tennis, debating society, founding of societies, UOC ‘music club’. [58:00] Mentions lack of girls at UOC; invitation of girls from outside UOC for May Balls. Story of musical ‘Staggins Club’; founding of Oliphant Society. Mentions playing in Trinity Orchestra, Cambridge Philharmonic. [1:00:34] Comments on teaching NST, Years 1 and 2. Story of George Porter accidently throwing explosive out of lecture room window. Comments on lectures in early computing; non-scientific lectures including Sir John Shepherd on philosophy; practical work in science; contemporary developments in X-ray crystallography; LB’s lecturing. [1:06:51] Comments on PD’s lectures. Positive comments on BP’s lectures. Mentions application to work with BP; effect of degree result on application. Story of origin of work on nuclear research, Cavendish Laboratory [CL], 1951.

  • Description

    Interview with Oceanographer Sir Anthony Laughton.

  • Related transcripts

    Sir Anthony Laughton 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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