Oral history of British science
Forrest, Michael (Part 13 of 14). An Oral History of British Science.
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Forrest, Michael, 1934- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 13: Description of typical day in 1970s: bus from home in Abingdon to Culham; plasma experiments, testing equipment, reducing electrical noise, setting up equipment; visiting excellent library; tea breaks; becoming attuned to working around experiment machine shot intervals; arguments over lunch, international mix over table; regular lunch partners, Phil Morgan, Manfred von Hellerman, French and Dutch people, lunch in cliques; after lunch stroll outside; [06:55] differences between working on own experiments or big machines; finishing at 5, days initially governed by bus service, as at Harwell; evening working on some big machine experiments. [08:40] Remarks on activities at home: building hi-fi, children; anecdote about furniture building evening classes filled with nuclear physicists; MF building hi-fi equipment, some fanatical hi-fi builders at Culham; swimming; family camping holidays, later holidays abroad, such as in France and Italy. [13:32] Remarks on working in Frascata in Italy: post Moscow experiments at EURATOM; MF and Phil Morgan working on laser diagnostics; MF joined by family for holiday. [15:00] Remarks on: family activities, walking, London and Oxford theatre shows; promotion to Principle Scientific Officer; difficult promotion boards in London; anecdote about difficult question at a promotion board; Alan Gibson training MF to pass promotion boards; [19:00] MF considering himself as working for fusion, good relations with fission researchers and weapons designers; Culham's small size fostering family feeling; MF considering fusion work important, colleagues who thought less of fusion work; always considering fusion breakthrough is 20 years away. [23:10] Remarks on changes to work in 1980s: Director Walter Marshall coming under pressure to commercialise work; MF made manager of diagnostics commercial team, leading to visits to Japan and Libya; scientists hating switch to being managers; MF sent on management training courses, with Guinness, Schweppes and London Zoo staff; balancing commercial work with work on JET, which concentrated on spectroscopic work; MF taking a team to D&#195;&#188;sseldorf university to investigate use of beryllium in Tokamak. [27:40] Remarks on commercial work in 1980s: many people unhappy with working on commercial activities; anecdote about talk from Mars trainer; senior management lacking management training; market research; highly skilled staff meaning that anything they sold would be expensive; few successes before MF took early retirement; classified work on negative ion beam and florescent scattering for Starwars, winning MF a censored publication; [33:10] commercial mode impinging on research activities; Harwell fission staff more enthusiastic than Culham staff, with exception of Hugh Boden; split of MF time between research and commercial activities; MF taking early retirement at 58 and return as a consultant without commercial responsibilities. [35:25] Comments on JET: Joint European Torus, European Tokamak built at Culham; staff split between Culham and Jet; description of Tokamak; reasons for building in UK; start of work on JET, diagnostic workshops; MF visible spectroscopy work on JET looking at impurities; charge exchange work on JET with Paddy Carolin; more sophisticated detectors for spectroscopy; importance of MF work on JET impurities and field configurations feeding into bigger picture of Tokamak design. [43:20] Remarks on: changes over career, technical progress; aspects of scientific civil service identity, grades, unions, pensions, scientist characteristics; differences between government and industrial scientists; 1980s travel interesting but not as satisfying as research; MF first considering retirement, terms; MF expecting to return as a consultant.
Life story interview with physicist Dr Michael Forrest.