Oral history of British science

Parsons, Michael (Part 8 of 14). An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Civil Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Sidmouth

  • Interviewees

    Parsons, Michael, 1928- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: Further remarks on building of Severn bridge: corrosion on boxes; description of problems with bolts exploding from cable bands; hard winters in early 1960s; anecdote about driving to work with Jerry Gurney in hard winter; conditions on site in winter; death of two men to drowning; [06:20] health and safety on site, catwalks carefully designed; difficulties digging viaduct foundations on Aust side of river; borehole tests of soil and rock under bridge supports; later trip of MP and Ken Hyatt to view foundations of first Bosporus Bridge, and consequent change of anchorage design; [11:10] MP idea of starting building the bridge deck in the middle; arrangements for management of site, role of resident engineers. [13:40] Remarks on typical daily activities on site: inspection team; site walk around; discussions with contractors; relaxed environment compared to office. [15:20] Story about accident on site of Humber Bridge: resident engineer Douglas Strachen; contractors dropping components; MP driving all night to get to site listening to news on radio; details of gantry falling off cable onto bridge deck; damage to deck and repair. [18:45] Remarks on finishing Severn bridge: completing financial arrangements with contractor; appointment of bridge engineer; MP feelings when bridge was completed; opening ceremony with Queen; Royal tea in Bristol, with Joan and family. [22:40] Story about opening of first Bosporus Bridge: symbolic importance of bridge to Turkey, national holiday; MP and VIPs on Turkish side of bridge with Ralph Freeman; seeing huge crowds approaching bridge; Freeman and MP quickly calculating if bridge could take the load of the crowds; crowds on bridge on opening, police trying to stop people, MP concerns over crowds being crushed. [27:30 pause] Comments on: changes to bridge design philosophy after collapse of box girder bridges, load factor methods; comparison of Bosporus Bridge building philosophy with later methods; value of building bridges to improve communications and benefit country, examples of Turkish property boom after new bridges; [32:00] economic benefits of Severn Bridge, construction of second Severn Bridge; anecdote about Barbara Castle promising Humber Bridge if Labour were elected. [33:20] Comments on attractive features of suspensions bridges: curve of cable; pictures of bridges in MPs home; MP ride in work; career of pleasure and worry in work; MP more concerned with avoiding collapses than glory; high point of pleasure for MP viewing first Bosporus Bridge from plane.

  • Description

    Interview with bridge designer and structural engineer Michael Parsons

  • Related transcripts

    Michael Parsons interviewed by Dr Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

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

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