Oral history of British science

Baillie, Mike (Part 3 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 3: [1:14:32] Description of process of using purpose built, simple machine to measure width of oak rings. Comments on importance of checking. Description of hand plotting of graphs with horizontal scale, 4 rings = 1centimetre; process of matching of tree ring patterns by superimposing graphs on light table; use of correlation coefficient for ring pattern matching by computer, including ‘mutual veto’ system for accepting matches identified by eye and computer. [10:31] Comments on reasons why certain trees are better ‘recorders’ of ‘the signal’ than others; general consistency in recording of ‘signal’ by oaks across Ireland; uncertainty about the exact nature of the environmental/climatic ‘signal’. [11:57] Comments on use of dry wood corers (hollow drill bit); other ways of lifting ring pattern from timber. [14:26] Comments on effect of agricultural development/motorway construction and (later) commercial peat cutting on availability of oak. [17:59] Story of move from RDL to Institute of Irish Studies [IIS], QUB, 1970, to take up Junior Fellowship. Comments on employment of Jennifer Hillam [JH] as Research Assistant in dendrochronology, RDL. [23:45] Comments on abilities of JH in counting rings/matching ring patterns. Detailed comments on construction of ‘site chronologies’ 1970s. Story of key role in construction of Irish TRC of collection of bog oaks (covering 5200 BC – 200 BC) revealed by drainage of Garry Bog, County Antrim, NI, early 1970s. Comments on quality/clarity of ring patterns in Garry Bog oaks. [32:12] Comments on history of IIS; IIS’s first Director, geographer Estyn Evans [EE]. Mentions second Director, Rodney Green. Description of constitution of IIS, 1970s. Further comments on EE. [34:59] Story of difficulty bridging gap between longest lived living trees (1649) and oldest oak building (1716), including use of English and Scottish oaks. [40:20] Story of difficulty bridging gap in 14th Century, involving dating of crannogs (lake dwellings). [42:28] Story of ‘teleconnections’ with other TRCs, including German TRC. [44:48] Comments on effect of Northern Irish ‘troubles’ on own work. Description of sights/sounds/atmosphere of ‘troubles’. [48:46] Detailed comments on enjoyment of/fascination with history of Ireland, revealed through construction of TRC; identification of relations between tree growth and human history. Mentions years of coincident contraction of tree growth and human population in northern Europe: 1816, 1740; effect of tree rings in emphasising continuous, not episodic history. [55:50] Comments on continued participation in archaeological digs, until 1973. [57:26] Comments on wife’s lack of interest in archaeology; wife’s employment as Secretary to Director of UM. Story of effect of effect of birth of first child (1979) on own work, including drop in productivity caused by sleepless nights; related decision to write book ‘Tree Ring Dating and Archaeology’ [TRDA] (1982). [1:01:42] Further comments on late night writing of TRDA. [1:03:47] Story of examination of PhD, 1973. Description of content of PhD. Comments on lack of contemporary interest in academic career. Story of appointment as Graduate Demonstrator, then (in 1974) Lecturer in Archaeology, DA, QUB, including role of MJ. Further comments on lack of career ambitions/expectations during PhD. [1:09:32] Comments on life in shared accommodation, from 1970 until marriage; relations with parents. [1:12:17] Comments on nature/extent of public interest in construction of Irish TRC, 1970s

  • 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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