Oral history of British science
Aderin-Pocock, Maggie (2 of 14). An Oral History of British Science
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Space Science and Engineering
2013-08-15, 2013-08-22, 2013-09-26, 2014-01-14, 2014-02-13, 2014-04-03
British Library, London
Aderin-Pocock, Maggie, 1968- (speaker, female)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 2: Comments on reasons why father abandoned ambition to train as a medical doctor once in UK; father’s study of law using ‘talking books’ following his loss of sight; influence on self of father’s enthusiasm for learning. [1:19] Comments on reasons for closeness to father, including perceived similarities. [2:19] Story of/comments on own loss of religious faith during period in which father’s faith deepened/increased. Mentions own visit to Israel. Comments on religious faith as a younger child, including family prayer at home with father and sisters; ‘break between’ self and father in third year of own university studies, due to own decision to live away from home. [5:43] Comments on parents’ view of politics/politicians of the 1970s/1980s; own views of Margaret Thatcher/Falklands War/teachers’ strikes. [9:35] [daughter speaking] Comments on reasons for wanting to go to university, including father’s influence; reasons for not choosing to read medicine; applications to read physics at Imperial College [IC], London and universities of Oxford [UO] and Manchester. Mentions visits as a child to the Science Museum; childhood perceptions of scientists as ‘lofty fellows’; excitement at sight of Nobel laureates in Department of Physics [DP], IC; limitations of decision to live at home for first two years. [13:58] Comments on/story of application to UO. Story of interview at private school (‘Ladymede’), aged 7. Comments on being excited rather than intimidated by UO. [interruption] [18:15] Comments on tendency for schools attended to have been ‘all girls’ schools, so that university physics and then engineering presented a contrasting ‘male dominated’ environment; novelty at LSUCS of own decision to take mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology A-Levels. [19:50] Mentions negotiation with DP, IC following A-Level physics result. Comments on physics degree [1987-1990], IC, including own dedication to academic work, especially in first 2 years, friend from LSUCS also reading physics at IC, effect on studies of own dyslexia, content of first year courses, tutor: space scientist David Southwood [DS]. Comments on reasons for not telling DS of own ambition to become a space scientist. [23:43] Story of taking telescope-making/astronomy evening class in Camden, London during year of degree, including use of observatory near Hampstead Heath, London; development of computer control system for telescope as first year project at IC, involving writing of computer program using BBC BASIC computer, then [Acorn] Archimedes. Comments on learning to program computers at school, then at IC; effect on programming of dyslexia. Description of ‘post-mortem dump’ print-out. Comments on development of degree in second and third years. Story of decision to focus on practical rather than theoretical physics during course of degree, with comments on perception of own aptitude for hands-on aspects of optics. [29:17] Description of ‘non-linear optics’ including slit experiment demonstrating ‘wave-particle duality’. Comments on quantum mechanics, with example of ‘Schrodinger’s cat’. [33:22] Comments on third year project involving surfaces of lenses in Cassegrain telescope. Story of making box for telescope in IC workshops during summer holidays. [35:26] Comments on composition (by gender and ethnicity) of IC physics course in 1987; tendency to spend time with physics undergraduates who, like self, were ‘keen’/motivated; differences between lecturers; tendency to seek help with coursework. [39:30] Comments on tendency to be selected for inclusion in photographs for DP, IC brochures/prospectuses. Story of beginning work in ‘science communication’ during degree, involving visits to school in Pimlico, London through IC ‘Pimlico Connection’ [daughter speaking]. [41:17] Comments on tendency not to drink/socialise with friends at IC until PhD. Brief description of bedsit in Knightsbridge in third year of degree. Comments on father’s response to move out. [43:06] Comments on drinking with friends during PhD; difference between Union Bar and preferred ‘Southside’ bar. [44:29] [speaking to daughter] Story of transition from degree to PhD in Department of Mechanical Engineering, funded by Castrol Oils [1990-1994]. Description of PhD work, involving development of optical techniques for examination of microscopically thin layers of oil between moving metal parts. Mentions installation/maintenance of instruments in Shell and British Petroleum [BP] workshops.
Life story interview with space scientist and television presenter, Maggie Aderin-Pocock.