Oral history of British science

Forrest, Michael (Part 6 of 14). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Abingdon

  • Interviewees

    Forrest, Michael, 1934- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 6: Remarks on: enjoying technical challenge of work at Harwell, difficulties of making measurements; director Bas Pearce's support for development of diagnostics; extent of theoreticians understanding of technicalities of diagnostics; help of theoreticians on other topics; others in group with MF, such as Mike Hill, Brian Bowden and Bernard Jones; supportive technicians. [04:00] Remarks on work of scientists, experimentalists and technicians: experimentalist's position; technician activities and attributes; encouraging technicians to do further research; technician Harry Jones, a former Cunard Line chief electrician, whose lack of paper qualifications was a negative at his interview. [08:45] Remarks on daily activities: always avoiding committees; reviewing literature and talking to colleagues before starting work to avoid repeating work; story about borrowing a secret oscilloscope from a contact at Aldermaston; idea to combine Harwell and Aldermaston fusion personnel into one group at Culham, leading to unofficial contacts in weapons work at Aldermaston. [12:50] Comments on activities when he returned from GCHQ: beryllium pinhole camera work on ZETA with Alan Gibson; story about division head Bob Wilson assigning MF to work on laser scattering to measure plasma temperature, with [Alan] DeSilva and David Evans, after a letter by Tom Hughes in 'Nature'. [16:20] Remarks on: limited literature available on lasers; Tom Hughes article proposing laser scattering to measure temperatures; formation of team to investigate laser scattering, of DeSilva, David Evans and assistants Frank Page and John Ford, who later developed Hong Kong telephone exchanges; origins of Tom Hughes ideas, spotted by Bob Wilson as a possible approach; importance of skilled librarians in finding articles and patenting; [21:45] protective patenting of ideas; MF first patent on ruby rod cooling in lases; library patent officer; MF patent on splitting laser pulse optically; patents often superseded. [24:55] Comments on laser light scattering: long period spent developing a suitable laser; process of storing light in laser through Q-switching, alternatives of rotating mirror prism, Kerr cell or Pockells cell; anecdote about visiting Radar Research Establishment [RRE] at Malvern for suitable crystals; military crystals from US. [29:27] Discussion about Ruby Laser: how a laser works; having to make their own lasers at first until Korad started producing suitable ones; technical problems, cooling arrangements. [32:30] Comments on others in group: Canadian David Andrews, PhD Bristol, cultured Shakespeare fan, good data analyst with broad physics knowledge; American Alan DeSilva, sophisticated but practical American, academic appearance, but fantastic Charleston dancer; social interactions; [Closed between 35:42 – 38:48 until May 2032] John Ford, became chief project engineer of Hong Kong telephone exchange. [39:00] Remarks on: laboratory at Culham; building a straight pinch to produce plasma. [40:00] Detailed comments on back and forward electron scattering: measuring electron and ion temperatures; importance of technique to MF, published in Nature; Alan DeSilva returning to USA, David Andrews and MF continuing work. [43:00] Remarks on: baffles to filter laser light; arrangements for measuring scattered lasers using RCA photomultiplier; fast electronics Krytron vacuum tubes supplied through Aldermaston; [44:35] technical problems of laser, stray light, narrowing of laser lens. [45:15] Remarks on Culham: built to house successor to ZETA; [mic crackle]; university atmosphere, with research fellows and links to universities. [47:30] Remarks on: interaction of laser scattering team; vigorous management questioning from managers [R.S.] Bas Pease and Walter Marshall [50:10]; office arrangements and facilities; special workshops, such as glass-blowers; links into Aldermaston weapons development equipment, such as through Bill Waller; anecdote about refusing explosive camera shutters; David Evans nominally in charge, but MF having management responsibilities; MF promotion to scientific stream. [54:25] Comments on interviews at Charles II street: training by Alan Gibson; difficult questions; anecdote about friend never passing boards. [57:30] Remarks on scientific civil service: pay and pensions; few professional differences; story about considering working for Plessey on Isle of Wight; story about consultant Professor Bradley offering MF and David Evans posts at Queen's Belfast. [1:00:50] Description of ruby laser, current use of multiple lasers. [1:02:35] Remarks on: how work was seen outside group; diagnostic and machine conferences; contacts at conferences, more with Americans, such as from Los Alamos and Princeton, than French, until JET. [1:05:00] Description of building laser: flash tubes; optical switching; mirrors and coatings, advisor Professor Evans from York University; reflector advisor Dan Bradley from Imperial College; high voltage bank; technical problems; problems with stray light swamping scattered light, MF returning from retirement to work on MAST stray light system; solutions to stray light, such as baffles; laser dump and a Rayleigh glass horn.

  • Description

    Life story interview with physicist Dr Michael Forrest.

  • Related transcripts

    Dr Michael Forrest interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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