Oral history of British science

Forrest, Michael (Part 11 of 14). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Recording locations

    The British Library

  • Interviewees

    Forrest, Michael, 1934- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 11: Remarks on return from Russia: feelings of exhaustion and realisation that Russia would be a hard act to follow; reactions at Culham, Bas Pease pleased; entering a phase of heavy physics work to develop diagnostics using a plasma focus to explore other scattered features; ion temperature; multi channel arrays of silicon diode detectors; Culham building a tokamak named DIETY, on which they measured current density; plasma focus. [05:45] Description of difficult experiment measuring current density: use of interferometer, image intensifier, lengthy experiment. [07:40] Remarks on: colleagues on return, PhD students, Richard Kirk, David Wheeler; detecting filaments in plasma, predicted by Imperial Professor Malcom Haines; filaments, threads of high density in plasma; short laser shots; promotion to Senior Scientific Officer with a small team, including Harry Jones. [10:50] Comments on: improved equipment, military grade detectors, some from American laboratories; krytron, fitted with cold cathode switches; [13:25] Culham in 1970s, personal laboratory with plasma focus, limited time on larger machines, mission developing diagnostics; description of plasma focus laboratory, equipped with ruby and carbon dioxide lasers. [16:40] Remarks on: careers of Russia team, Peter Wilcock, Nichol Peacock, Derek Robinson, who later became director of Culham, Harry Jones; considerable freedom in work due to successes on difficult experiments; PhD students as a source of free labour, such as Richard Kirk who worked on solid state detector, and David Wheeler who looked at Rotation Faraday; consultant Professor Bradley from Royal Holloway; MF continued contacts with David Evans; Nichol Peacock’s special merit promotion, allowing him to avoid management responsibilities. [24:30] Remarks on MF administrative responsibilities: budgets; reports for American Air Force colonel's sponsoring plasma focus work; anecdote about American colonel's interest in UFO's; anecdote about convincing administrators to allow them to buy best equipment; involving administrators with work; anecdote about finance officer nicknaming him 'Flexible Mike'; strategies to spend budget before end of financial year; limited limitations on spending, buying American lasers; [31:20] staff management duties, annual reports; story about dealing with an electrician with a drink problem. [Closed between 33:17 – 33:35 until May 2032]. [34:30] Description of year long magnetic field experiment: interferometer; array of collection optics; Paddy Carolan's work in Germany; difficulties integrating with Tokamak; purpose to measure temperature profile and electrical current in plasma; experiment never repeated it was so difficult, MIT professor Hutchinson's view of difficulty; increased constraints of current nuclear physics; diagnostic work now concerned with honing existing methods rather than developing new ones. [39:45] Remarks on: long term importance of original 1964 scattering experiment; comparison of 1960s and 1970s work. [41:55] Remarks on fluorescent scattering experiments in 1980s: tuning laser measure neutral density and ion temperature, with Denise Evans and Dave Burgess of Imperial; Imperial laser using carcinogenic dyes instead of ruby; H-Alpha and H-Beta spectral lines; relevance to current ITER fusion reactor work. [46:35] Remarks on: working with Professor Paddy Carolan, interested in spectroscopy, previous work on magnetic fields in plasma, similarities to Nichol Peacock in enjoying debates; MF enjoying bouncing ideas off Paddy Carolan and David Evans, with example of magnetic field work on tokamak. [49:55] Comments on: colleagues probably thinking MF was lucky, few colleagues having his freedom; conferences, MF enjoying high temperature plasma diagnostics conference in USA, especially poster sessions, remembering conferences more for places, such as Lake Tahoe, than content; [55:55] status of Culham's diagnostic work, influence of Bas Pease and university links; mechanisms of university links.

  • 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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