Oral history of British science

Wood, Sir Martin and Lady Audrey (Part 9 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 9 [48:49] Remarks on OI in 1990s: long recession at start of decade; factor affecting OI success, balance of industrial and research markets; performance of OI industrial and research equipment and Plasma technology in 12009 recession. [01:39] Remarks on OI links in Japan: business conditions dealing with Japan, importance of Tokyo, language; MW visits around Japan; slowness of some companies in exporting to Japan; OI initially using agents to deal with Japan; OI executive Paul Brankin investigating Japanese market; setup of Oxford Instruments KK in Japan, initially set up by Tony Ford; cultural issues with employing Japanese staff, appointment of Japanese chief executive Jiro Kitaura. [05:50] Remarks on awarding of prizes in Japan to improve profile in 1990s: Millennium committee of Japanese physicists to judge prize for young physicist; help of British Embassy reception; award of lecture tour in England and meeting with MW and AW at home. [09:30] Remarks on: MW and AW involvement with OI today, shareholders; longevity of OI; recent article on OI in 'Oxford Times' about its spin-off success; reasons for OI success, luck, wide appeal of products to stable research field, difficult condition in 1970s; innovation of mobile medical recorders, profitable but not core business. [14:25] Remarks on importance of superconductivity to OI success: early involvement of OI with superconductors, 1960s conference on superconductivity; discovery of superconductivity by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes; support of Clarendon laboratory, symbiotic relationship. [17:05] Remarks on retirement: MW retirement in 2003; MW continued activities with OI; MW awarding the Martin Wood prize in Japan every year at the British Embassy; trusts and investing taking much of their time; fitting in to Oxford University organisations. [21:15] Remarks on: Earth Trust, formerly Northmoor Trust set up in 1967, environmental trust, owns nearby wood; Sylva Foundation to improve Britain's woodlands, based at home, growing on Internet, influence worldwide, school project based around Duke of Marlborough's oak tree. [24:35] Remarks contrasting OI today and in early history: retained ethical and fair culture of early operations; occasional recessions and redundancies; OI chief executive and chairman following their original ethic; not looking this far forward when they founded the company, limited business knowledge and attending courses. [28:20] Story about MW formative experience working in a factory as a teenager, covering for his injured sister, not being rewarded for increasing productivity. [30:50] Remarks on AW writing 'Magnetic Venture' book about history of OI, MW high opinion of AW writing, value of AW studying English and Science at Cambridge under Leavis and Swan; value of complementary skills [Quote THIS 23ish]; [33:48] AW Methodist missionary background, discussion about people at home, mother managing a church; AW and mother's unskilled labour in building magnets. [35:40] Discussion about MW and AW awards: recent Mendelssohn Award, OBE, knighthood, 10 honorary degrees, [pause 37:24] Royal Society award for MW; AW OBE for conservation. [37:55] Remarks on hobbies outside work: turning hobbies into trusts; travel, Antarctica; sabbatical leave in Australia in 1969; new chief executive Barry Marsden dispatching them to set up French office of OI. [39:43] Further discussion about MW awards, with aid of box full of awards: clock; IEE award made of superconductor; Japanese award of Order of the Rising Sun to MW; Bevin Boy medal; Mullard Award; particular value of Bevin Boy medal and Order of Rising Sun to MW; OBE's, Knight Bachelor award; Queens Awards for OI; value of Japanese and American awards and Fellowship of Royal Society to MW. [46:45] Remarks on: taking part in interviews; MW enjoying working with hands and valuing awards for physical work; Japanese award; anecdote about MW wearing Japanese medal to a dinner at the Rutherford lab retrospectively allowed by Queen.

  • 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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