Oral history of British science

Wood, Sir Martin and Lady Audrey (Part 6 of 11)

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  • Subjects

    Scientific Instruments

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewees' home, Abingdon

  • Interviewees

    Wood, Sir Martin, 1927- (speaker, male), Wood, Lady Audrey,1927- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 6 [1:00:06] Remarks on: OI pricing, Barry Marsden changing prices, undercharging initially; never wanting to sell company, faith that OI would become great; 1973 purchase of British Oxygen superconducting magnet division; story about takeover of Newport Instruments [NI] on friendly terms; share arrangements meaning that AW and MW no longer OI majority shareholders and glad to share company and responsibility; AW trying to keep outside shareholders in balance; Newport Instruments' Martin Boswell's share arrangements and trust in AW and MW; [06:30] anecdote about Newport Instruments' 3 classes of canteen; egalitarian nature of company, use of first names; further details about Newport Instrument [NI], use of magnets, caravan division which built mobile law court for Arab prince; NI owner trusting OI to look after company; desktop NMR machine. [10:55] Remarks on: new products in physiological monitoring; recent OI advances in nanotechnology; takeover of Plasma technology Limited and Link. [12:28] Comments on Nuclear magnetic resonance [NMR]: role of Rex Richardson; use of NMR to model molecules; resonance of atoms in magnetic fields allowing analysis; methods of imaging body by mapping hydrogen atoms; need for high magnetic field; Oxford professor Rex Richardson using NMR for research and realising, with Nottingham university that it could be used in imaging; early NMR images; use of NMR in chemical analysis; OI building systems for Rex Richardson; OI building magnet part of instrument but not spectrometer, which were built by Bruker, Varian and Nikolai; Bruker's Günther Laukien's tactics to buy OI during 1970s; anecdote about Gunther Laukien's bullying attitude during a meeting with MW in 1970s; German Very-cold company asking to be taken over by OI rather than Bruker. [22:20] Remarks on: Sir Peter Mansfield and Paul Lauterbur's Nobel Prize for MRI machines; OI making magnets used in experiments by Mansfield; OI involvement with Peter Mansfield's experiments. [24:00] Remarks on photos of early MRI machines: anecdote about Geneva MRI machine being disrupted by electric trams; description of early MRI machines, using superconducting magnet; OI producing first whole body superconducting magnet, working with Professor in Aberdeen; description of complete MRI machines; OI recent development of nano-computer environments. [29:35] Further remarks on MRI: feelings about OI role in MRI; change of name from NMR to remove word nuclear; use of MRI magnet to separate ores used in paper making. [32:10] Remarks on: MW doing less design work in 1970s. [33:00] Story about problems with Grenoble magnet: lack of insurance; supply for faulty design data from famous French scientist; problems with magnet, not seen by OI but caused by French data; design of magnet to resist lightning strikes at Grenoble; settlement between OI and Grenoble and subsequent tightening up of OI contracts. [38:55] Remarks on: importance of recurring customers; anecdote about a sculptor friend delivering a magnet personally to Professor Néel at Grenoble; friendship between OI and Grenoble. [42:35] Remarks on: OI manufacture of standard products; value of designing custom equipment to keeping skills; innovating with customers; top scientists, such as Rex Richards of Oxford always needing top equipment; standard magnets for Bruker, Varian and Nikolai; Varian takeover of Magnex in Oxford. [45:25] Comments on Rex Richards: Oxford professor or Chemistry, and Vice Chancellor; multi-talented; friendly interactions between Oxford University and OI staff; OI's Peter Hanley's impression of value of seeing many experiments in Oxford; difficulties recruiting technicians, anecdote about Harwell accusing MW of stealing their apprentices. [50:30] Further remarks on MRI: whole body scanners; superconducting magnet trials at Hammersmith; hospitals going to big medical companies for equipment rather than small companies, OI making most MRI magnets for a time; MRI effect on OI, rapid growth; joint venture with Siemens, who were making over-expensive magnets; active shielded magnets to cancel stray magnetic field, successfully patented in spite of Phillips counter-patent; [55:05] anecdote about MW demonstration of MRI magnet to Queen Mother at Royal Society; Magnetic Spectroscopy equipment; anecdote about magnetics sucking in metallic objects. [closed section 00:57:42- end]

  • Description

    Interview with scientific instrument designers and entrepreneurs Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood

  • Related transcripts

    Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit the 'Voices of Science' web resource for extracts from Martin and Audrey Wood's interview

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