Oral history of British science
West, Richard (Part 1 of 15). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewees home, Great Shelford, Cambridge.
West, Richard, 1926-, (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 1: Richard Gilbert West [RW] born Hendon, Middlesex, 31st May, 1926. Story of father’s life including early childhood in British North Borneo [BNB], education, interest in radio, degrees, WW1 (World War One) service in Royal Flying Corps, rank of Captain, work as BBC’s (British Broadcasting Company) research engineer (Savoy Hill, London, 1923-c.1927), 1930s work with John Logie Baird [JLB] on development of television, WW2 (World War Two) service in electronics, post-war work in television, interest in hill walking/climbing, accidental death in 1949, interest in flight. [5:53] Comments on mother’s life; maternal grandfather, publican. Mentions parents’ marriage, c.1922. Story of mother’s interest in driving. Mentions siblings; mother’s role in raising family. Story of mother’s career in local politics, including relations with prospective Members of Parliament as Mayor of Beckenham, MBE. Mentions mother’s death, 1993. [8:39] Comments on paternal grandparents, Bexhill, East Sussex, including grandfather’s interest in electronics, strictness of grandparents, grandfather’s role in building of BNB railway, grandfather and father’s private rooms. [10:57] Comments on maternal grandfather, including interest in sailing, Herne Bay [HB], Kent . Story of sailing on holiday with grandfather. Comments on contrast between grandmothers. [12:48] Description of paternal grandfather’s private room. Comments on feeling of sympathy for paternal grandfather’s approach to correspondence/administration. [15:18] Story of accompanying father on Sunday visits to photographic laboratory, Crystal Palace. Comments on limited time spent with father due to boarding school, WW2, father’s death. Mentions outdoor pursuits with father, early 1930s. Brief description of developing photographs with father. [19:20] Brief comments on time spent with mother as child, including holidays HB and Rustington, Sussex. [20:04] Comments on father’s growing of alpine plants. Mentions own interest in maps. Description of paternal grandparents house/garden. Story of grandmother dressing RW and siblings in clothes inspired by BNB experiences. Mentions photographs of grandparents’/father’s life in BNB. Description of maternal grandparents’ house, including snooker room, cupboard containing father’s stored radio equipment. [32:40] Description of early (1935) television set at home, including tuning programmes. [handling noise] Description of family home/garden, Beckenham, Kent. [handling noise] Comments on childhood music lessons. Comments on own gardening in plot at home. [39:40] Brief comments on childhood past-times, including Meccano, playing of card game ‘Speculation’ with paternal grandmother. Description of father’s private room. [42:31] Comments on experience of landscapes/scenery as a child. Story of 1938 family trip through Europe, including Germany. Mentions own photographic record of this trip. Mentions accompanying father on visits to JLB for tea; friendship with JLB’s son. Story of 1936 Crystal Palace fire. [48:50] Comments on church attendance of parents, grandparents, self at boarding school; relative strictness of parents/grandparents. Mentions parents’ maids. [53:18] Comments on parents’ probable voting habits.
Life story interview with Professor Richard West FRS, Botanist and Quaternary Geologist.