Oral history of British science

Rapley, Chris (Part 3 of 7)

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  • Recording locations

    Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, University College London

  • Interviewees

    Rapley, Chris, 1947- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 3 [1:00:14] [Session three: 27th April 2011] Detailed description of use/experience of AC, UOM, early 1960s, with related stories. Story of testing of UOM physics practical experiments. Mentions photographs of this period. [8:42] Comments on scientists/scientific work at JB, 1969. Mentions learning to program in machine code; fellow MSc students. Comments on lectures; dissatisfaction with prescribed project work/limited opportunity to progress MSc to PhD, JB. [12:21] Description of own MSc project concerning detection of ‘particle showers’ produced by collision with upper atmosphere of high energy particles; large area array of particle detectors used in Hafren Forest, Wales, run by Bob Porter [BP]/Ralph Spencer. Story of discovering interference of diesel generator. Mentions design/construction (assisted by BP) of circuit allowing real-time display of ‘pulses’ on cathode ray tube [CRT]. Comments on RAE equipment provided by John Jelly[?], including caravan used in Christmas Island atomic bomb testing. Comments on detection by particle detectors of electrical discharges in clouds. [19:23] Story of origin of PhD research, Mullard Space Science Laboratory [MSSL], UCL (University College London), based at Holmbury St. Mary, Dorking, Surrey, including roles of JH, Eric Dorling [ED] and Robert Boyd [RB]; first impressions of MSSL. [22:53] Description of work of Mike Cruise [MC] using Rotational Modulation Collimators [RMCs] to record X-rays. Story of assisting in preparation of experiment for launch on Skylark 973 from Woolmera, Australia. [25:10] Description of own work involving X-ray detectors [XRDs] on Skylark 402 [SL402], including comments on navigation system. Comments on contemporary questions concerning origin of soft X-ray background [SXB]; details of construction of detector. Mentions other experiment on SL402. Comments on SL402 altitude control system. Story of launch, SL402, early 1970s; failure to receive results from XRDs. Comments on other work towards PhD, MSSL; advice of RB following failure of SL402. [32:31] Description of experiment launched on Skylark 1203 [SL1203] investigating SXB and large scale radio features. Comments on collaboration with Stu Boyer[?]; success/results of SL1203 experiment. [34:52] Comments on development in laboratory of position sensitive, low energy proportional counters [PSLEPC]. Description of role/value of PSLEPC in studying rapidly varying X-ray sources. Story of identifying sources of error/solving problems in use of PSLEPC in space experiment run by Palo Alto Research Laboratory [PARL], Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, California, US; relation between this assistance and invitation to develop Bent Crystal Spectrometer [BCS] and detector systems for NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration, US] Solar Maximum Mission [SMM] at PARL. [40:10] Comments on MSSL’s role as site of British innovation in space science, in relation to BCS. Story of Science Policy Research Unit review of astro-physics at JB/UOC. Mentions US (Lockheed) admiration for British Skylark rocket technology. Mentions Bluestreak, Bloudhound, Sea Dart. Comments on negative effect on British space science of amalgamation and increased bureaucratic control. [44:40] Description of MSSL. Mentions own homes Cranleigh/Guildford. Comments on characterful MSSL scientists. Mentions Peter Wilmore, Pete Sandford, Len Culhane[?], Robert Boyd[?]. Comments on commune living of some MSSL scientists, including links with British Aerospace’s Dunsfold Aerodrome, Surrey. [48:28] Description of scenes of work in MSSL at time of own arrival; Skylark rocket. Mentions laboratory technician, Harry Goddard. Comments on use of IBM 1103 computer, MSSL. Further description of MSSL interior, including workshops/design offices. Mentions equipment harnesses produced by Jo Ootes’[?] laboratory; library; offices. [54:15] Comments on lunchtime walk in MSSL grounds/over Holmbury Hill. [54:55] Detailed comments on reasons for own interest in ‘radio continuum sky’/SXB, with related stories.

  • Description

    Interview with physicist, Chris Rapley

  • Related transcripts

    Chris Rapley 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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