Oral history of British science
Baillie, Mike (Part 4 of 8) An Oral History of British Science
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Queen’s University of Belfast and interviewee’s home, Belfast
Baillie, Mike, 1944- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 4: [33:43] Brief comments on US dendrochronology. Comments on German dendrochronology, including decision to preserve independence of different TRCs by not collaborating. [2:42] Story of first international tree ring conference, Tucson, Arizona, US, attended by self and JP. Mentions German dendrochrologists: Dieter Eckstein (Hamburg), Bernd Becker (Stuttgart); conversations with German scientists concerning WW2. [4:42] Comments on use by German dendrochronologists of different (to QUB’s) computer program for tree ring pattern matching; comparable progress of Irish and German TRCs in 1970s. [6:20] Comments on different value/utility attached to dendrochronology in different German laboratories. [7:55] Comments on climate change (cooling) concerns, 1970s. Story of rapid collection of data for modern British/Irish TRC with JP, using increment corer, leading to conclusions that Irish and English oak trees are responding to a common ‘signal’; work of JP on ‘response function’ of Irish oak trees, showing that these trees could not be used to reconstruct past climates directly. Mentions sharing of data with Climatic Research Unit [CRU], University of East Anglia [UEA]. Mentions Keith Briffa [KB]. [12:35] Comments on working relations with JH, until 1976. Brief comments on JH’s subsequent career. [13:37] Comments on significance/extent of JP’s contribution to construction of Irish TRC; working relations with JP; difference between own and JP’s character/approach to work. [16:13] Story of work (between 1977 and 1986) involved in bridging of gaps in Irish TRC: 1st Century BC, 10th Century BC, 4000 BC, including collection of East Anglian subfossil oaks by research assistants Liz Halliday/Liz Francis. [20:51] Continued story of bridging gap in Irish TRC, including sighting of pile of bog oaks (at site called Swan Carr [SC]) on train journey between Manchester and Durham, UK. Story of field visit to SC, including comments on significance of samples collected. [23:19] Story of response to publication of German TRC to 2000 BC, including first exchange of data, identification of off-set between German and Irish data, own identification of error in German data, publication of agreed European oak TRC in ‘Nature’ (1984). Mentions limit to Irish TRC at 5200 BC; longer span of German TRC. [28:39] Comments on friendly relations with German dendrochronologists. Story of further comparison with independent group of German dendrochronologists. Comments on security/robustness of European (including Irish) TRCs. Mentions critics of dendrochronology.
Interview with Dendrochronologist, Mike Baillie