Oral history of British science
Humphreys, Colin (8 of 9) Oral History of British Science
The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »
interviewee's office, Cambridge
Humphreys, Colin, 1941- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
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.
Interview with materials scientist, Professor Sir Colin Humphreys