Oral history of British science

Ash, Eric (Part 4 of 13)

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  • Type

    sound

  • Duration

    00:49:27

  • Shelf mark

    C1379/92

  • Subjects

    Electronics

  • Recording date

    2013-01-29

  • Recording locations

    British Library, London

  • Interviewees

    Ash, Eric, 1928- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 4 [49:27] Further remarks on USA: enjoying time at Stanford in the 1950s, weather, freedom, intellectual atmosphere; Stanford's stimulating intellectual atmosphere; Stanford physics department's ski resort housing; intensity of EA's skiing at time; EA wife Clare wanting to go to UK. [04:15] Remarks on return to UK: arranging position at Queen Mary University with a former Imperial College lecturer George Walker for a year; subsequently working at Standard Telephone Laboratories [STL]; George Walker's interest in particle accelerator, use of dialectics as slow wave structure; problems arranging accommodation; wife enjoying life in Britain; deciding to purchase a car, 1931 Morris Minor, anecdotes about braking system; EA car maintenance in UK and USA. [10:00] Comments on work at STL: work on microwave tubes; use of microwaves in broadband communication systems; STL microwave tube factory in Paignton; description of STL Enfield and STL Harlow research laboratories; description of Harlow New Town; EA mainly concerned with components rather than systems; [15:20] Description of typical daily activities and interactions with support staff such as machinists and glass blowers. [17:35] Remarks on working with factory in New Jersey, USA run by STL's parent company ITT: difficulties transferring designs from research laboratory to production; interaction between STL and ITT, many committees such as one meeting in Stuttgart; description of typical meeting; need to clearly define work processes; anecdote about 'rule of thumb' methods used in lens making, encountered by EA whilst advising Rank. [22:40] Story about making spark erosion machine tool for making a millimetric microwave tube, trying unsuccessfully to interest other branches of STL in productionising equipment. [25:38] Remarks on being an industrial scientist: degree of freedom in being in research laboratory; satisfaction in meeting goals; continuing contact with university; deciding to return to University. [27:08] Remarks on STL work activities: publishing papers; difficulties getting technology to work reliably; description of making a resonator for microwave tube, high degree of precision required; working with varied fields of technology, such as materials; key projects at STL; millimetric tubes not being used for their original purpose of microwave communications due to development of optic fibres; Bell Laboratories and UCL experiments in using hollow pipes to carry microwave communications; [33:55] EA not being personally involved with STL work on optic fibres under Charles Kao, who became a long term friend and colleague of EA; Kao's award of Nobel prize but suffering from Alzheimer's; limited social life at STL; anecdote about car sharing with Danish engineer during pea-soup fog; friend Bill Beck, who later worked at Cambridge. [37:35] Remarks on ingenious office mate at STL TM Jackson: background at Radar Research Establishment [RRE] Malvern, where he was talent spotted by Alec Reeves who took him to STL after war; assistance in millimetric microwave tube; many patents taken out. Remarks on Alec Reeves: genius, who invented idea of pulse code modulation for sending messages digitally in 1930s, Oboe bombing navigation system; anecdote about Reeves foreseeing optic fibres; [44:40] anecdote about paperwork habits; eccentric beliefs in psychokinetic powers; possible homosexuality; influence on EA's thinking. [47:50] Remarks on patenting at STL, anecdote about lack of interest in patenting at Imperial college later, EA patents whilst on sabbatical at IBM.

  • Description

    Interview with electrical engineer, Eric Ash

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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