Oral history of British science
Ash, Eric (Part 2 of 13)
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 »
British Library, London
Ash, Eric, 1928- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 2 [1:07:20] Remarks on starting Imperial College in 1945, being in a minority amongst veterans, food quality in Student Union building. [01:24] Remarks on BSc Electrical Engineering course:electricity fundamentals and history; radio and telecommunications; little study of radar; studying materials with Willis Jackson; studying heat engines and boilers;anecdote about learning middle third rule in structures classes; general engineering first year; mathematics well taught by blind lecturer Bikley; [08:38] EA preferring applied to pure mathematics; broad base of first year engineering, common engineering first year approach in other universities; commonality of thermodynamics, use in examining silicon crystals; wide applicability and benefits of study of mathematics, such as in modelling; [12:38] student workload; risk of failure in exams leading to expulsion; balance of lectures and practical work; EA later thoughts that more physics would have been beneficial; anecdote about limited benefits of workshop practice classes, EA meeting friend John Andrea whilst filing; [16:30] anecdote about synchronising large generators; EA later getting rid of large machines at UCL; division between heavy and light current electrical engineering; graphical solutions to mathematical problems; using slide rules; [20:38] anecdote about failing to convince daughter's teachers that electronic calculators could replace slide rules c.1979; using slide rules; EA interest in light current work; steady progress of electronics from valves onwards; [pause 24:00] established status of heavy electrical engineering compared to new world of electronics c1945; EA view on future of electronics c.1945, increasing importance of radar but few classes at first; EA desire to go into research after university, excitement in progress in scientific research; limited career guidance available at Imperial. [28:30] Description of Dennis Gabor: Nobel Laureate and inventor of holography; EA becoming his PhD student; Hungarian Jew; worked at technical Hofschule in Germany, emigrated 1933 with help of AEI's T E Allibone; worked at AEI on gaseous plasmas; interest in mathematical physics and microscopy; EA writing obituary for 'Nature'; complex character; [33:15] brilliant, lateral thinker; anecdote about Gabor's unsuccessful investigation into waves generated by onion seeds and disagreement with Einstein's plasma theory; wide interests; theories about quantum plasma effect in energy loss of electron beam being shot through a film; late election to Royal Society; imaginative nature leading to occasional errors; [37:38]EA recruitment by Gabor; Gabor's PhD supervision style, helpful but too bright; anecdote about Gabor deriding EA glass-blowing skills; anecdote about Gabor being more a physicist than engineer; some people finding him difficult to work with; [41:20] level of contact between EA and Gabor as supervisor, contrast with EA's later formal supervision arrangements with his PhD students; Gabor's work on holography, interest in holographic microscopy and making thin cathode ray tubes; EA fond memories and social contact of Gabor; anecdotes about EA social contact with Gabor in USA c1970. [pause 47:00] Remarks on EA PhD: title of 'Electron Interaction Effects'; research into the unexpectedly strong interaction of electrons and plasma, by shooting electron beams through plasma in tube and measuring effects; research into sheath effect caused by variation in plasma density around wall of glass tube; publication in Nature. [50:35] Description of electron microscope lens aberration problems, researched by EA for thesis: ability to cancel aberrations in electron microscope; possibility of creating a better electron lens using a cloud of electrons within the lens; interest of AEI into use of technique; EA showing that granular nature of electron cloud ruled out its successful use in correcting aberration; EA creating divergent lens using electron cloud. [55:05] Remarks on: interest in plasma at time due to possibly applications in fusion power, ZETA experiment in Harwell; Chris Llewellyn Smith's work on fusion power; ZETA developer EA PhD external examiner; EA approach to PhD examining. [58:38] Remarks on PhD work: experimental practical work, such as making thermionic tubes and finding ways of producing electron clouds; description of making a tube; problems in making tube; glass-blower and technicians; anecdote about drilling a hole in himself while working in workshop; [1:03:15] workshop training; value of personal interactions with workshop staff in teaching management; description of PhD experimental set-up; anecdote about -2000 volt car battery used in experiment; limited impact of EA PhD.
Interview with electrical engineer, Eric Ash