Oral history of British science

Moreton, Roger (Part 6 of 8). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Materials Science

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Fleet

  • Interviewees

    Moreton, Roger, 1935- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 6: Roger Moreton [RM]: remarks on dealings with companies connected to Carbon Fibre: Morganite, picked by RAE due to experience; Courtaulds, picked by RAE as they were responsible for Courtelle Fibre, initially protective of their secrets, later paid RM to help solve a problem with fibres, contact Dr Vera Furness; [04:20] Courtaulds reluctance to become involved in Carbon Fibre; Rolls Royce, had own inferior method for making Carbon Fibre, sometimes competitive. [07:10] Remarks on RM's helpful contacts at RR connected with Carbon Fibre: John Johnson, Derrick Thorne, Basil Proctor; consulted other RAE sections over applications of Carbon Fibre; many others having meetings as programme expanded; [12:35] opinions in RAE of RB211 jet engine blade problems; other RAE sections working on Carbon Fibre usage, such as structures department. [15:35] Story about Carbon Fibre being demonstrated by Leslie Phillips on a Queen's visit connected with Concorde facility; anecdote about Phillips demonstrating Carbon Fibre at a conference in London. [18:20] Remarks on public attention to Carbon Fibre: friction between Bill Watt and firms over publication; publications of letter to 'Nature', through agreement with Rolls Royce; first publication in 'The Engineer'; Bill Watt paper at a conference in USA. [22:00] Comments on patents: disputes between Bill Watt and patent office; suspicion over patent infringement; anecdote about American courts demanding to see RM's laboratory notebooks, in a case with Great Lakes Carbon; National Research and Development Corporation [NRDC] unsatisfactory resolution of Great Lakes Carbon patent situation; [27:05] RM sadness over UK's limited exploitation of Carbon Fibre, with reference to RR; lack of standardisation in British produced Carbon Fibre spools compared to Japanese; RM depressing view of UK firms exploitation of Carbon Fibre. [32:00] Remarks on: patriotism of work; RM disappointment at cancellation of many advanced projects; temptation to leave RAE, but Carbon Fibre work so hectic time passed quickly; feeling he needed to move on from working on fibres; later work on Aluminium - Lithium Alloys, regarded as competition for Carbon Fibre. [36:50] Remarks on: view of Carbon Fibre compared to other composite materials, such as Silicon Carbide fibres, Boron fibre and Kevlar; reasons for Carbon Fibre success; [40:30] early ideas of Carbon Fibre applications; anecdote about RM's kayaking being disrupted by longer Carbon Fibre fishing rods; Carbon Fibre applications in sports equipment; anecdote about Bill Watt telling him off for playing squash with a Carbon Fibre racket during a conference in Brighton; being encouraged to attend conferences; RM disproving of people publishing work multiple times with little changes, only wanting to publish when he had something new; [46:37] pressure to publish. [47:20] Remarks on patents: RM first patent on Silicon Carbide coatings for tungsten; Malvern's successful exploitation of patents; patent group and patent officers; Bill Watt disagreements with patent office; practice of awarding 1$ for US patents. [53:15] Remarks on: link with Southampton university's Peter Gregson on fibre reinforced laminates, during RM's later aluminium alloy work; RM's making of laminates using metal and Carbon Fibre pre-pregs; collaboration between, RM, Chris Peel head of aluminium group, Peter Gregson and PhD students. [59:00] Remarks on: working on Carbon Fibre from 1959 - 1979; career progression from Scientific Officer to Principal Scientific Officer; anecdote about RM always telling annual Job Appraisal Review interview boards that he'd rather carry on research, to avoid London administration post; limited posts for practical work beyond PSO grade, other than special merit promotions, as awarded to Bill Watt; [1:04:10] extra responsibilities with promotions, managing small teams; RM role as secretary of committee for intra-services metallurgical research council, made up of research establishment, industry and university representatives; Bill Johnson role as secretary of Carbon Fibre composite committee; topics of committee meetings, example of Concorde metal creep testing. [1:11:25] Remarks on: retirement of Bill Watt; RM departing Carbon Fibre section; Bill Johnson continuing Carbon Fibre work, until early death; complications over RM's PhD supervision after Bill Watt retired; [1:15:00] significance of first time they achieved good fibre properties; first RM visit to a US conference, anecdote about rivals Union Carbide's hospitality; [1:20:25] friendly relations with individual Americans, such as Roger Bacon and Diefendorf; RM feelings about moving away from Carbon Fibre work.

  • Description

    Life story interview with materials scientist Roger Moreton.

  • Related links

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

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