Oral history of British science

Baillie, Mike (Part 2 of 8) An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Climate History

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Queen’s University of Belfast and interviewee’s home, Belfast

  • Interviewees

    Baillie, Mike, 1944- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 2: [1:20:52] [Session two: 21st August 2012] Comments on content of undergraduate applied mathematics, QUB. [1:31] Comments on reasons for not enjoying period as secondary school teacher. [3:49] Comments on history of UAS; constitution of UAS in 1960s. [5:18] Story of participation in archaeological excavations in Mildenhall and Elvedon, East Anglia, UK, led by [Gale de Giberne] Sieveking [GS]. [7:36] Description of site of excavation, East Anglia. Comments on lithics (stone implements) found. Mentions development of own skill in flint knapping. Comments on pleasure taken in finding lithics. [11:26] Description of process/skill of flint knapping. Comments on own demonstrations of flint knapping to students, QUB. [14:18] Comments on production of gun flints/fake lithics. Story of making hand axe mistaken for genuine find at dig, Clacton, Essex, UK. [17:03] Comments on production of ‘scraper’ and other implements; relations with GS; food eaten on digs; distinction between personal collection of lithics and participation in excavations. [19:34] Story of own role as site assistant in excavation led by PW, Antrim coast, NI. Comments on perception of own practical abilities. [21:20] Description of process of organising archaeological excavation. Mentions microliths. Comments on use of radiocarbon dating [RD]. Mentions timing of first availability of RD in NI, 1968. [24:08] Story of origin of RDL, QUB, 1966, including Nuffield Trust funding, collaboration between Departments of Archaeology and Botany, early focus on providing dates in relation to pollen analysis for environmental reconstruction, employment of Gordon Pearson [GP] from 1968. [26:18] Description of principle/process of RD, including meaning of ‘low background counting’. [29:32] Story of own employment in RDL, including novelty in Department of Archaeology [DA] of own background in physical sciences/mathematics. Comments on need to calibrate RD as motivation for construction of TRC; existing ‘calibration curve’ [CC] developed using TRC in United States of America [US] by Hans Suess; contemporary scepticism over applicability of US CC in European RD. [32:36] Story of decision of MJ, ‘Professor Simon’, Alan Smith and Jon Pilcher [JP] to build Irish TRC, including contemporary emergence of trees/timbers from drained peat bogs. Mentions start date in RCL (1/10/68), with Gordon Pearson. [35:41] Description of RDL, including instrumentation. [38:59] Brief description of own work in RDL. Comments on contamination of samples collected by others; common mistakes in RDL; non-hierarchical relations among staff, RDL. [45:52] Comments on relations with colleagues in RDL, late 1960s, early 1970s. Story of collection of oak of various ages: recently felled trees, archaeological timbers, historic timbers, bog oak, including role of public advertisements, fieldwork, labelling and storage. Comments on development of precision and accuracy in RD by GP. [51:56] Comments on work of self/JP in late 1960s to determine whether dendrochronology could be practised on Irish oak, grown in temperate climate; decision to use oak rather than pine. [56:33] Description of fieldwork for collection of oak samples, including use of Swedish increment corer, relations with farmers including advantage of positive view of QUB among NI communities. [1:03:33] Further comments on relations with farmers during fieldwork, including role of local knowledge of landscape change; tendency for farmers to think in terms of biblical timescales/events, reasons for tending not to report results to farmers. [1:10:05] Description of process of labelling and storing chain-sawed, wedged disks of oak. [1:15:18] Comments on reasons for drying samples. Description of processes for preparing surface of oak samples for measurement. [1:18:14] Description of process of measuring width of each annual ring (consisting of spring and summer growth). Mentions Forestry Commission chainsaw training [ends abruptly]

  • Description

    Interview with Dendrochronologist, Mike Baillie

  • Related transcripts

    Mike Baillie 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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