Oral history of British science

Slingo, Julia (Part 1 of 6)

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  • Recording locations

    The British Library, London and Meteorological Office, Exeter

  • Interviewees

    Slingo, Julia, 1950- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1 [2:09:42] [Session one: 2nd November 2011] Julia Slingo [née Julia Walker] [JS] born Kenilworth, Warwickshire, 13th December, 1950. Brief story of mother’s life, including mathematics degree, teaching before marriage. Comments on rural life of maternal grandfather, chauffer. [1:49] Comments on rural life of maternal grandmother. [2:26] Comments on father’s life, including German degree, period of work in 1930s Germany, teaching career. Mentions skilled engineering work of paternal grandfather; circumstances of parents’ meeting. [3:51] Mentions lack of relations with paternal grandparents; limited experience of maternal grandmother. Description of maternal grandfather, who shared family home. [6:31] Comments on father’s role in reconstruction of Germany following World War Two [WW2] and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral [CCA]. Comments on timing of father’s sharing of German experiences. Discussion of father’s experience of 1930s Germany. [10:39] Comments on father’s work in Germany, post WW2, including reestablishment of Kiel University, father’s letters to mother. Comments on father’s wartime involvement in planning German reconstruction. [13:44] Description of family home: headmaster’s house, King Henry Eighth School [KHES], Coventry. [16:04] Story of older brother [OB] and friend building houses in garden. Comments on freedom to play allowed by parents; lack of ‘modern’ objects at home; tendency for creative play. [17:58] Comments on younger brother. [18:35] Comments on playing in local wood/watching steam trains at local crossing with brothers. Description/discussion of appeal of watching trains. Mentions interest in drawing/painting/reading/making clothes/playing piano. Detailed comments on childhood reading. [22:23] Mentions busyness of parents; father’s desk at home. Story of father planning timetable for KHES. Description of parents’ expectations regarding behaviour. [25:37] Comments on father’s faith/involvement in CCA; own church attendance with father/brothers; uncertainty concerning mother’s faith. [26:58] Story of negative effect on father of Labour government abolition of direct grant schools/establishment of comprehensive schools. Mentions lack of political discussion at home. [31:16] Comments on time spent with mother. [33:37] Comments on time spent with father; parents’ higher education. [36:01] Comments on Warwick Preparatory School [WPS], including description of bus journey; best friend Jane. [38:41] Story of daily chess playing, WPS. Comments on WPS curriculum, including lack of science; teaching of nature study; ability in arithmetic. [40:56] Mentions playground games. Comments on performance in English/handwriting; academic ability; willingness to please parents through school work. [43:29] Comments on King’s High School for Girls [KHSG], Warwick; ability in/enjoyment of mathematics. Mentions pure/applied mathematics A Levels. Comments on female teaching staff; streamed curriculum, including social effects. Mentions sporting/musical activities. [48:50] Mentions not taking O Level chemistry. Comments on practical work in physics/biology. Brief description of science laboratories. [52:01] Comments on A Level practical examination. [52:57] Comments on enjoyment of testing theory through observation/measurement. Mentions appeal of meteorology as observable ‘physics in action’. [53:49] Comments on relative informality/directness of relations with physics teacher, during A Level/Scholarship preparation. Story of taking University of Oxford [UO] entrance examination early. [57:47] Mentions close relations between physics and applied mathematics; continuation of formal relations with pure mathematics teacher. Mentions experimental chemistry; home chemistry experiments of OB. [59:55] Description of OB’s chemistry apparatus/experiments. Mentions visit to supplier of chemicals/equipment, Birmingham. [1:00:48] Comments on extent of own involvement in OB’s experiments; interests of OB in electronics/broadcasting. [1:04:10] Comments on own interests: including tennis, youth club, sewing, piano, singing, playing of violin in county youth orchestra. [1:05:32] Comments on mother’s schooling at KHSG; physical education. [1:07:06] Comments on reasons for applying to read physics at university. Story of interview, St Hilda’s College, UO, including reasons for rejecting offer. [1:12:58] Comments on parents’ view of decision to read physics. Mentions OB’s degree: engineering, University of Cambridge [UOC]; father’s suggestion of University of Bristol [UOB] for physics. [1:14:04] Comments on decision to apply to UOB. Mentions interview, Westfield College, University of London. [1:14:49] Comments on first year teaching of physics, UOB, 1969/1970, including practical engineering skills. [1:17:11] Mentions theoretical nuclear physics/statistical mathematics. Comments on preference for practical work in thermodynamics/light/magnetism. [1:19:00] Description of third year experimental project on properties of Potty Putty. [1:22:39] Comments on small proportion of female undergraduates reading physics, UOB, 1969 to 1973. Mentions higher proportion in biochemistry; John Nye. [1:23:39] Story of writing essay on clouds, UOB, in absence of meteorology teaching. Mentions established interest in meteorology. Story of developing interest in cloud formation during Sixth Form revision. Mentions preference for classical physics/’physics in action’. [1:26:14] Story of deciding to pursue physics through career in meteorology. [1:27:05] Comments on living arrangements/social life/friendships while at UOB. Mentions singing/music; boyfriend, also reading physics. [1:30:11] Story of joining UOB ‘32 Choir’/UOB Choral Society, singing soprano. Comments on enjoyment of choral singing; piano playing, UOB. Mentions lack of political activity; playing of squash, UOB. [1:34:12] Mentions lack of graduate courses in meteorology, 1973; successful applications for Masters Degree in meteorology, Imperial College, London. Brief story of successful interview for position as Scientific Officer [SO], Meteorological Office [MO], Bracknell, UK. [1:37:45] Brief description of own prior reading in meteorology. Mentions interviewers: MO Director of Research [Ernest] Knighting [EK], Fred Bushby. [1:39:29] Comments on parents’ view of prospect of career in MO. Comments on six month Scientific Officers Training Course [SOTC], MO College, Shinfield Park, Reading UK. [1:42:03] Description of content of theoretical part of SOTC, concerning behaviour of fluid on moving sphere, heated unevenly. [1:44:42] Comments on valuing of meteorology/weather forecasting as example of science with social benefit. [1:46:54] Brief description of teaching in theoretical part of SOTC; trainees, including gender ratio (2f/13m), majority postdoctoral, Oxbridge. Story of MO Director General John Mason [JM] expressing belief in Oxbridge superiority; disputing initial allocation to Stream 2 (forecasting), not Stream 1 (research), SOTC. Comments on distinguished careers in meteorology of many SOTC graduates, including John Mitchell [JM], Tim Palmer. [1:53:11] Comments on fellow female trainee (EK’s daughter); reasons for scarcity of women entering MO, early 1970s. [1:55:23] Description of afternoon, practical forecasting component of SOTC, including role of judgement/experience. [2:00:35] Brief description of equipment used in plotting weather chart from observations. Comments on assessment of forecasts. Mentions lack of satellite observations/images. [2:03:16] Further comment on role of judgement in forecasting. [2:05:00] Further comments on negotiated move from Stream 2 to 1, SOTC. [2:07:12] Mentions research on early climate modelling, MO, following SOTC. Comments on interest in role of moist thermodynamics in atmosphere.

  • Description

    Interview with meteorologist, Julia Slingo

  • Related transcripts

    Julia Slingo interviewed by Paul Merchant: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

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

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