Oral history of British science

Humphreys, Colin (8 of 9) Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Materials Science

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  • Recording locations

    interviewee's office, Cambridge

  • Interviewees

    Humphreys, Colin, 1941- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: Comments on Rolls-Royce [RR] University Technology Centres [UTC]: advantages of scheme to RR in supplying fresh people and expertise; importance of materials research to RR in engine efficiency; RR and EPSRC setting up strategic partnership with Swansea, Birmingham and Cambridge Universities; UTC developing materials used in RR jet engine turbine discs; incomplete knowledge about nickel based super alloys; development process for gradually building up new alloys; experimental testing and modelling of alloys; [06:05] CH role founding UTC with Julia King and acting as a director; example of CH UTC role in negotiating for permanent position for UTC deputy; recent RR EPSRC collaboration to develop materials science PhDs and develop new alloys; CH concentrating more on Gallium Nitride work than UTC recently. [09:25] Comments on Gallium Nitride: description of Gallium Nitride device growth in Metal Organic Chemical Deposition equipment; growth of Gallium Nitride on sapphire, with Indium layers that emit light; varying of light colour with Indium content; highly efficient light generation by Gallium Nitride light emitting diodes [LED]; desire to create LEDs for lighting; [14:10] problems in manufacture of Gallium Nitride, few individuals with required skills, examples of recruiting staff from overseas; Britain not training applicants in right areas of science for needs of industry, too many biologists and too few physical scientists compared to demand of industry and academia; shortage of materials scientists in Britain compared to Singapore; need for high level of skill in creating new semiconductors; CH starting work on Gallium Nitride c1996 using materials from other sources; CH hunch that Gallium Nitride would be a good material to work on; Gallium Nitride advantages over Silicon for making transistors. [20:15] Comments on CH theory about high temperature superconductivity: potentially a hunch that is mistaken; description of CH theory of high temperature superconductivity; anecdote about coming up with theory whilst on lecture tour of Australia; CH presentation at conference; mostly negative reception of idea. [26:35] Anecdote about CH mistaken hunch about electron microscope images. [28:05 pause] Remarks on Gallium Nitride research: growth of research group; fund-raising from EPSRC, Department of Trade and Industry, technology Strategy Board [TSB], European union. [29:55] Description of how Gallium Nitride semiconductors generate light, generation of blue light or white light if LED's provided with a phosphor coating. [33:10] Further remarks on Gallium Nitride research: aim of producing useful research to produce LED home and office lighting; scheme for Plessey in Plymouth to mass produce LED light bulbs by 2014; selection of Plessey to allow exploitation by British company; aim to maintain collaboration with Plessey; plans to develop adaptable LED lighting or use lighting to communicate messages; [38:50] origins of ideas; progress of Gallium Nitride research, change to grow on cheaper silicon rather than sapphire; CH promoting materiel through conference and media appearances; anecdote about CH appearance on 'You and Yours'. [42:00] Remarks on CH daily life: working long hours, international competition; extensive time commitment of being a Cambridge head of department, meetings, competition for resources, finances; running a research group, constant fund-raising, preparation for upcoming collaboration with Glasgow university; outline of CH busy travel around world over coming months; CH invited talks on Gallium Nitride; [48:55] CH organisation of research time between topics. [50:15] Further remarks on Gallium Nitride: hope for dramatic cost reduction in Gallium Nitride light bulbs, anecdote about Buckingham Palace use of LED light bulbs; plans to market Gallium Nitride light bulbs within 5 years; advantages of Gallium Nitride light bulbs; move into Gallium Nitride transistors and ultra-violet LEDs in future; CH most interested in solid state lighting today. [54:50] Story about CH writing on dating of crucifixion: anecdote about father giving daughter book on great men in history inspiring CH to try to calculate the date of Jesus' death; CH unsuccessful attempt to date crucifixion by date of eclipse with help of astrophysicist colleague Graham Waddington; study of Gospal's mentioning of eclipse; reconstruction of ancient Jewish calender; publication of paper with date of crucifixion in 'nature'; huge publicity. [1:00:30] Story about CH visit to Mount Sinai which suggested that it wasn't the Mount Sinai of the Bible and lead him to write 'Miracle of Exodus'. [1:03:20] Remarks on Miracles of Exodus: placement of Mount Sinai in Arabia; publicity around book; anecdote about thwarted possibility of BBC documentary by 'Horizon' producer Matthew Barrett, atheist objecting to documentary; anecdote about disagreement with fundamentalist American radio interviewer; CH talk in New York synagogue; favourable review by theologian; [1:07:04] negative reactions; reactions from scientists, book reviews in science journals; anecdote about CH giving a talk about miracles on a visit to Arizona, opposed by atheist Lawrence Krauss; application of scientific ways of thinking to religion; sources for 'Miracles of Exodus', few records other than Bible; [1:12:55] archaeological discovery of ancient Remses providing location data.[1:14:38] Story about CH development of explanation for final miracle of Exodus: study of book of Joshua suggesting River Jordan blocked far from Israelis' route across it; CH search for ancient Adam, where mudslides routinely block Jordan. [1:18:30] Comments on: being Christian and a Scientist; CH thinking through religious doubts, example of Jesus appearance in locked rooms; contrasts of arts and science mindsets. [1:21:55] Remarks on CH book on Last Supper: discrepancy over dating of Last Supper compared to Passover; possibility of different calenders being used for different Gospels explaining discrepancy and resolving problems with timing of events before crucifixion; endorsement by Archbishop of York; extensive publicity; CH upcoming talks in Australia; CH mainly writing books while travelling and around work; CH plans for future books.

  • Description

    Interview with materials scientist, Professor Sir Colin Humphreys

  • Related transcripts

    Colin Humphreys interviewed by 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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