Oral history of British science

Williams, Carol (Part 4 of 9). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Recording locations

    The British Library, London

  • Interviewees

    Williams, Carol, 1939- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 4: Mentions vacation job, Istanbul, Turkey, 1965. Comments on roles of members of DGG at time of own appointment, 1965: DDM, TB, BB, Maurice Hill [MH], John Jackson, David (‘Dai’) Davies [DD]. Mentions assistants, technicians, research students; Fred Vine [FV]; DDM’s previous RA, Sue Vine [SV]. Comments on work space in former stables of house occupied by DGG: Madingley Rise [MR], including presence of DDM/SV’s magnetic profile models on hayloft floor. [2:12] Brief description of work on CD, early twentieth century to mid 1960s, including work in palaeomagnetism [PMAG] led by Keith Runcorn [KR], publication of paper on seafloor spreading [SFS] by FV/DDM, publication by TB/Alan Smith [AS]/Jim Everett of paper on computer fit of the continents [CFOC]. [3:37] Comments on naming of undersea features by Marine Group [MG], DGG. Description of first task as RA: digitisation of paper records of gravimeter and magnetometer, produced on Royal Research Ship ‘Discovery’. Detailed description of practise of hand-digitising these records, including conversion to paper tape, use of computer in Mathematics Laboratory [ML], UOC; plotting of gravity anomalies [GA] and magnetic anomalies [MA] on transparent charts, 1:1million scale. Detailed comments on methods of navigating on ‘Discovery’; contouring of plotted GA and MA in North East Atlantic [NEA]/Bay of Biscay [BOB]. [9:58] Brief description of work on recorded change in MA between cruises (‘secular variation’), including published paper. [11:20] Comments on participation in 1966 ‘Discovery’ cruise to BOB, as first female member of DGG staff allowed to join a cruise. Description of preparation for cruise. Comments on relations with male crew/officers; expectations concerning dress onboard; suicide of MH; first female research students appointed 1966: Monica Dirac [MD] and Charlotte Keen [CK]. Mentions previous research student, Mike Keen. Comments on/stories of relations between TB and female research students/visitors. [18:14] Story of dinners with MD and her parents. Mentions own assessment of Bob Parker [BP] and Dan McKenzie’s [DM] intelligence. [20:13] Story of 1967 ‘Discovery’ cruise to Indian Ocean [IO]. Description of radar navigation. Comments on freedom to navigate close to foreign shores. Brief description of geophysical work from ‘Discovery’. Mentions paper on mid ocean ridge, Gulf of Aden published by DDM/self/Anthony Laughton [AL]. [25:23] Comments on response in DGG to DM/BP paper on plate tectonics [PT], 1967. Story of own magnetic survey during BOB cruise, indentifying distinct MAs of Atlantic and BOB, 1968. Mentions publication with DDM on BB, 1968; paper by Jason Morgan on PT; move from MR to Wolfson Laboratory [WL]. [29:43] Comments on DDM’s sabbatical to digitise IO magnetic data, Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory [LDEO], Columbia University, New York, US. Mentions crewing of yacht across Atlantic, 1968. [30:36] Story of development of understanding of subduction by Xavier Le Pichon, relations between plate motions and earthquake locations by Bryan Sykes/Jack Oliver/Lynn Sykes. [32:40] Detailed comments on character of DDM, with related stories. [37:54] Story of DDM’s negative experience of PhD fieldwork in Falklands Islands Dependency Survey [FIDS]. [39:11] Comments on coffee time/lunchtime conversations with research students, DGG; impression of intelligence of BP; understanding of geophysics gained by listening to conversations of others, including TB; perception of own abilities/intelligence in relation to other DGG staff. Discussion of view of intelligence of BP. [46:23] Comments on character of/relations with DM. [48:07] Comments on character of MD, with related stories; character/relations with CK. [50:55] Comments on DGG parties, involving use of punt; relations between research students; use of DGG workshops at weekends. [53:38] Comments on origin of own participation in 1966 ‘Discovery’ cruise. Discussion of reasons for own inclusion/SV’s earlier exclusion; relations with crew of ‘Discovery’. Comments on character/role of ‘Discovery’ ‘net man’ Harry Morton; lack of comment by others on own participation in 1966 cruise. Description of own accommodation, ‘Discovery’. Comments on own conduct onboard ‘Discovery’. [1:03:45] Comments on relations between scientists and officers/Captain of ‘Discovery’, with related story. [1:04:49] Comments on parties onboard Discovery. [1:06:56] Detailed description of working day, 1966 cruise. [11:27] Detailed description of practice of seismic refraction sounding at sea. Mentions Tim Vertue. [1:17:55] Comments on aims of 1966 ‘Discovery’ cruise; own digitising/plotting of cruise data. Mentions published paper with DDM on MA, BOB. [1:19:17] Comments on use of Titan computer, ML. [1:22:09] Description of storage of charts/paper records, MR and WL. Mentions role in updating GA/MA charts/sounding sheets and diagram drawing. [1:24:22] Comments on drawing of MA contours; freedom in 1960s to take ‘Discovery’ to unexamined areas, without detailed justification. Mentions later restrictions of Natural Environment Research Council [NERC]. [1:26:18] Comments on development of magnetic reversal timescale [MRT], first published 1966. Description of use of MRT to number MA lineations. Brief comments on reasons for pursuing PhD. [1:29:45] Story of origin of work in US, 1968, including role of TB; period of work at Scripps Institution of Oceanography [SIO], La Jolla, California, US, including participation in cruise, social life. Comments on MD’s life in US; character of Walter Munk [WM]; TB’s social relations in US. [1:41:13] Comments on differences between DGG (UK) and SIO (US) attitudes to PT, 1968, related to availability of data. [1:45:11] Mentions visit to DDM at LDEO. Story of work at Bedford Institute of Oceanography [BIO], Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, including analysis of data from cruise south of Ireland, social relations. Mentions application for PhD, DGG, 1969; DM/JM’s paper on plate ‘triple junctions’; world seismicity maps. Comments on development of understanding of PT; origin of term ‘plate tectonics’.

  • Description

    Interview with geophysicist Dr Carol Williams

  • Related transcripts

    Dr Carol Williams interviewed by Dr 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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