Oral history of British science
Rapley, Chris (Part 2 of 7)
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Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, University College London
Rapley, Chris, 1947- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 2 [57:42] [Session two: 31st March 2011] Story of childhood visits to the Royal Aircraft Establishment [RAE], including photograph taken of model of Ariel 1 spacecraft. Comments on treatment of space technology in popular culture, including Eagle comic cutaway drawings. [4:42] Story of decision to read physics at UO [1966-1969], linked to competition with friend. [7:28] Comments on impression of UO as less focused on science than University of Cambridge [UOC]; experience of being English among mainly Welsh undergraduates, Jesus College [JC]. [10:33] Comments on senior tutor, mathematician Claude Hurst [CH]. [11:24] Mentions lectures. Comments on social life; successful membership of UO shooting team. [13:24] Positive comments on shy mathematics lecturer. Mentions spiral staircase exit from lecture theatre. Mentions teaching of nuclear/atomic physics by second year tutor, John Houghton [JH]. Story of disappointment with lectures on electromagnetism of Brebis Bleaney; feelings of dissatisfaction with OU physics; arrangement by CH of special lectures in optical astronomy by Madge Adam [MA] in UO Observatory; third year astrophysics. Comments on effect on time available for study of hobbies of shooting, photography. [21:59] Comments on MA, Donald Blackwell’s solar furnace; minority of female physics undergraduates. Story of female physics graduate encountering sexism in interviews with large companies. Comments on reasons for low numbers of female science undergraduates. [27:18] Comments on enjoyment of practical physics classes. Mentions use of lasers. Story of experiment to characterise a field-effect transistor. [30:43] Story of practical entry examination, UO; interview, UO. [35:38] Description of Clarendon Laboratory [CL], UO. Brief story of measurement of electric charge of an electron in ‘Milligan’s experiment’, KES. Mentions photograph taken in CL. Comments on range of experiments conducted in CL. Brief story of queuing for lectures in Pitt Rivers Museum. [30:40] Comments on experiences in UO Observatory, including orientation of telescope, learning of spherical trigonometry. Brief description of UO Observatory. Comments on process of aligning axis of rotation of telescope with Earth’s axis, involving mercury bath. Mentions chemistry building blocking part of night sky. Mentions other undergraduates taking special lectures in astronomy. [43:24] Comments on relations with parents while at UO; use of Honda 50 motorcycle; labouring at Bath University to earn money for BSA Mark 3 rifle; family holidays. [46:33] Story of meeting future wife Norma, trainee nurse, during second year UO. [47:40] Story of decision to leave UO after degree, including interviews for advertising agency, astronomy PhD University of Sussex, MSc Jodrell Bank [JB] in Cheshire, Rolls Royce at Derby, Kodak in London. Comments on iconic status of JB and Bernard Lovell [BL]. Story of using Atlas Computer [AC], University of Manchester [UOM] as KES pupil, including running of programs for JB. Description of/comments on MSc in radio astronomy, JB , including dissatisfaction with lack of intellectual freedom. Mentions marriage while at JB. Brief story of watching Star Trek at JB.
Interview with physicist, Chris Rapley