Oral history of British science

Laughton, Anthony (Part 3 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 3: Comments on own photography, late 1940s. Story of Nicholas Temperley’s mathematics supervisions, KC. [2:52] Story of brief period of nuclear research, CL, 1951. [5:56] Story of appointment as research student, Department of Geodesy and Geophysics [DGG], UOC, 1951, through friendship with KC Fellow, Maurice Hill [HM]. Comments on nature of discipline of ‘geophysics’. Description of MH’s seismic studies of the sea floor. [7:29] Comments on close relations between geology and geophysics in DGG; separateness of DGG and Department of Geology [DOG], UOC, in spite of proximity; own lack of geological training. [11:00] Mentions limited contact with other researchers, CL. [12:08] Story of origin of friendship with MH. Mentions ‘Ten Club’; later experience of MH’s parents’ Cambridge home. Comments on MH’s angst concerning level of own success in relation to that of father AV Hill, including possible link with MH’s suicide. Discussion and further comments on MH’s sense of his status in relation to Cambridge intellectual families. [17:14] Comments on status of geophysics, linked to involvement of Sir Edward (Teddy) Bullard [TB]. [17:50] Comments on equal status of science and arts subjects in UOC colleges, early 1950s; relative lack of day-to-day freedom of science students; CP Snow’s ‘two cultures’. [20:49] Mentions room in DGG, Downing Place, early 1950s. Story of assisting with ‘seismic refraction line’ [SFL] on Home Farm [HF], next to DGG’s Pendulum House [PH]; assistance with SFLs to detect coastal ‘drowned rivers’. [24:13] Detailed description of process of creating explosions for SFL; use of ‘geophones’ to receive returned vibrations; operation of recorder. Comments on HF. [29:52] Comments on discussions of geomagnetism work in coffee breaks, DGG. Positive comments on role of bathymetric wall charts of World’s oceans in coffee room, Madingley Rise [MR] (location of DGG from 1955). [32:30] Comments on Keith Runcorn. [33:53] Story of Leslie Flavell’s [LF] assistance in building of geophysical equipment, PH. Comments on research student Reg Gilbert’s work on gravitational measurements. [36:31] Detailed description of own research involving laboratory work on relations between compaction of ocean floor sediments and velocity of sound waves travelling through them, including apparatus used; role of technical assistance in electronic design and construction. Comments on contemporary valve electronics. [41:16] Detailed comments on process of communicating with LF. Comments on role of cathode ray oscilloscope [CRO]. Description of rough mock-ups of equipment. Detailed description/explanation of CRO display; use of CRO in own research. [46:20] Story of 1950s interest in mid-ocean ridges [MOR], with central valley; John Swallow’s [JS] mapping of part of Mid-Atlantic Ridge [MAR] central valley; Bruce Heezen’s [BH] (Lamont Geological Observatory [LGO]) recognition of extension of valley along MORs, associated with seismic activity; Ronald Mason [RM] and Arthur Raff’s [AR] survey of magnetic anomalies [MAs], eastern Pacific. Description of process of surveying and mapping MAs. Story of discussion of such data at MR; use of magnetometer in MH’s cruises. Story of development of/description of ‘proton magnetometer’ [PM], replacing earlier ‘flux-gate magnetometer’; LF’s construction of a PM. Comments on difficulties in use of gravimeters at sea. Mentions ‘routine’ use of echo-sounder, PM and gravimeter at sea; additional ‘seismic refraction shooting’, ‘seismic reflection shooting’, sample dredging. Description of extraction of samples. [57:36] Detailed description of process of deciding where to take research ships (including Discovery II [D2]) to collect data. [1:04:53] Description of survey of ‘Peake Deep’, including difficulties posed by contemporary navigational technology. Comments on name of biscuit manufacturers as inspiration for naming of ‘Freen Deep’ and ‘Palmer’ and ‘Huntley’ ridges.

  • 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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