Oral history of British science
Hall, Mike (Part 1 of 21). An Oral History of British Science.
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Godwin Laboratory, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge
Hall, Mike, 1947- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 1: Mike Hall [MH] born Cambridge, United Kingdom [UK], 8th January 1947. Story of father’s life, including World War Two [WW2] service, marriage 1945. Mentions brother’s birth, 1951. Continues story of father’s life, including employment (Cadbury’s factory then Freeman Hardy and Willis shoe shop), retirement. [2:04] Comments on timing of father’s willingness to speak about WW2 service. [2:50] Brief story maternal grandfather’s life. Comments on mother’s part time work, including sewing of fancy dress outfits. [4:32] Comments on paternal grandparents. Brief story of father’s brother killed WW2, linked to father’s motivation to fight. Mentions father’s sister’s childhood death. [5:46] Comments on memories of paternal grandparents. [6:56] Mentions summer holidays spend on maternal grandparents’ farm. Story of involvement in harvesting. Brief description of threshing machine. Comments on pork/butter production. [10:28] Description of farmhouse. Mentions feeding animals/egg collecting. [12:06] Comments on experience of first school. [13:25] Comments on family holidays. [13:55] Story of participation in Cubs and Scouts. Mentions parents’ involvement on Cub/Scout committees. Mentions assisting mother in jumble sales. Story of promotion within Scouts. Description of responsibilities as Scout ‘Patrol Leader’. Comments on Scouts/Boys Brigade rivalry. [17:23] Comments on/discussion of role of scouting in increasing own self confidence. [18:55] Positive comments on junior school teaching. [19:46] Story of playing with neighbour. [21:19] Description of prefabricated house, Cambridge. [22:29] Comments on father’s work, Cadbury’s factory. [23:47] Description of next house, Wulfstan Cambridge. Mentions parents’ gardening. [26:17] Brief story of watching friend’s television. Comments on own first Echo television. Story of damage to this television. Description of transistor radio. Mentions own radio. Description of Dansette record players. [29:25] Comments on quality of father’s repairs; programmes listened to/watched. [31:25] Story of playing hopscotch/skipping in street. Mentions friends’ model railway. Story of making/riding go karts. Description of construction of own go kart ‘Warpaint’. [34:09] Mentions play on building sites, cricket, cycling. Comments on cycling/fishing. Story of receiving bicycle for Christmas. [35:56] Mentions parents’ encouragement of scouting/ballroom dancing classes. Comments on parents expectations concerning own behaviour, with related story. [38:00] Comments on parents’ social life. [38:38] Comments on Church of England attendance of family, including self, related to Scouts. Mentions own confirmation. Positive comments on own church attendance. [40:05] Comments on lack of political discussion of/between parents. [40:43] Description of primary school. Comments on exceptional small group tuition in English/mathematics. Mentions passing 11 plus; enjoyment of/ability in mental arithmetic. [43:20] Mentions use of litmus paper; construction of household objects. Brief description of organisation of mathematics teaching. [45:01] Comments on transition to Cambridgeshire High School for Boys [CHSB]. [46:24] Stories of father’s childhood in London. Comments on father’s ability to invent stories/games. Brief description of father’s appearance for work. Stories of visiting shoe shop managed by father, including hiding labels on ‘nigger brown’ shoe polish, assisting in stock taking using ‘Ready Reckoner’ books. [51:12] Further stories of father’s childhood in London. Story of father’s WW2 service. [55:23] Comments on time spent swimming with father, with related stories. [56:42] Brief comments on father’s positive view of Scouting. [57:04] Comments on teaching of science, CHSB. Description of chemistry laboratory. [1:00:49] Comments on teaching of other subjects, including mathematics, geography, CHSB. Mentions Combined Cadet Force [CCF], CHSB. Description of father’s methods of preparing uniform, adopted by self in CCF; activities of CCF/rifle club. [1:07:44] Comments on involvement in sport/games CHSB, with related story. [1:09:20] Comments on uniform, CHSB; time spent with pupils out of class. [1:10:51] Story of offers of employment following O Level examinations; decision to accept post as technician, University of Cambridge [UOC], 1963; associated HNC/HND physics. [1:13:25] Comments on reasons for choosing technician post. Story of application to/interview for technician post. [1:15:23] Story of letters from Head of Botany School [BS], Harry Godwin [HG] to self and father at time of appointment. [1:16:34] Description of procedure for weighing of plant matter in first month as technician. Comments on role of Senior Technician Paul Freeman in ‘ecology group’, BS. [1:18:23] Description of laboratory in BS occupied for first month as technician. Comments on arrangements for coffee/tea breaks, including separation of genders; other technical staff; separation of technical/academic staff; working relations with academic Clifford Evans; lack of distinctions between technicians/academics in laboratories run by self later. [1:22:54] Story of chopping carrots for undergraduate practical examinations. Mentions hours of work. [1:23:44] Story of transfer to radiocarbon dating [RD] laboratory [RDL], 5 Salisbury Villas [SV], Station Road, Cambridge; history of RDL, including establishment by Eric Willis [EW], move from BS . [1:25:04] Description of RDL. Stories of Russian caretaker. [1:28:23] Comments on change from valve to transistor based RD equipment. Mentions appointment of Roy Switsur [RS] as head of RDL, following EW’s move to United States of America [US]. [1:29:55] Mentions manufacture of glassware by Fred Morse, Cambridge Glass Blowing. Story of explosion. [1:31:24] Description of RD equipment and method of use. [1:34:48] Description of recording system in valve based RD equipment; digital recording system in transistor based RD equipment; principle of RD, including age range of dateable materials (c.100-c.40,000 years before present). [1:36:40] Comments on colleagues RDL (RS, Gerald Sutton [GS], Alan Ward, Chris Devine). Mentions appointment as Head Technician, replacing GS. [1:37:44] Description of arrangements for coffee breaks, RDL. [1:38:16] Comments on dating of material for Subdepartment of Quaternary Research [SQR], UOC and others; calibration of RD in relation to other RD laboratories. Mentions dating of Somerset levels. Comments on RS’s interest in dating boat material. [1:39:27] Description of typical day, RDL. [1:40:44] Comments on HNC/HND physics, Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology [CCAT], including timings, content, other students. [1:44:43] Story of parents’ new home. Comments on social life, including UOC interdepartmental technical staff sports, ballroom dancing. Story of origins/development of relationship with future wife. Comments on reasons for marrying; living arrangements following marriage, 1967. [1:50:34] Comments on difficulty in explaining own work to others. [1:52:19] Story of eye injury in chemistry practical work, CCAT. Comments on level of parents’ interest in own work. [1:53:57] Comments on parents’ social life; mother’s sewing work.
Interview with laboratory manager and technician in climate history Mike Hall.