Oral history of British science

Aderin-Pocock, Maggie (1 of 14). An Oral History of British Science

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  • Recording date

    2013-08-15, 2013-08-22, 2013-09-26, 2014-01-14, 2014-02-13, 2014-04-03

  • Recording locations

    British Library, London

  • Interviewees

    Aderin-Pocock, Maggie, 1968- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Track 1 [58:08] [Session one: 15th August 2013] Maggie Aderin-Pocock born in London, UK, 9th March 1968. Story of life of father, including birth in Nigeria, emigration to UK late 1950s with intention of becoming a doctor, employment in post office, emigration of his wife and daughter, birth of 3 daughters in UK (including self), move from post office to Pizza Express, then own import-export business. Comments on father’s life in Nigeria, before emigration to UK, including employment as teacher in rural setting; father’s reasons for emigrating; father’s experience of racism in UK resulting in cautiousness/concern as a parent in the UK. [3:14] Comments on life of mother, including her relatively affluent parents with ‘British nanny’ (in contrast to father’s childhood), marriage to ‘local dignitary’ as young teenager, birth of first child (own stepsister), end to this marriage/beginning of new relationship (with own father). Mentions perception that mother’s childhood was relatively lonely, due to premature death of her mother and busyness of father. Comments on parents’ meeting at school in Nigeria at which father taught. [05:25] Comments on time spent with mother as young child, including details of own insomnia and birth of younger sister Grace [interruption], with related stories. [7:44] Story of separation of father and mother, at own age of 4, including details of mother’s second marriage, mother’s sweetshop, eventful moments during ‘custody battle’. [9:27] Comments on time spent with father as young child, with related stories. [11:33] Story of separation of mother and father and father’s eventually successful application for custody of self and younger sister Grace (both living from moment of separation with mother and her new partner). Mentions own attendance at 13 schools during childhood, including boarding schools. [13:34] Detailed comments on time spent with father as older child, with related stories. Discussion of time spent with father and sisters watching and discussing the moral content of television [TV] programmes/films. Story of visiting father’s workplace in Camden: a central dough-making kitchen for Pizza Express; living above Pizza Express restaurant in Hampstead which father managed. Comments on tendency not to travel/go on holidays as a child. [19:04] Comments on time spent with mother and new partner in London and later Hastings, East Sussex with mention of own undiagnosed dyslexia and related dislike of school and decision to run away from Hastings, back to father in London, to save sister Grace from ‘remedial school’ in/near Hastings. Further mention of tendency not to go on holiday with either parent. Comments on mother’s encouragement of own development in speech and drama; father’s tendency to encourage ambition to become medical doctor. Mentions mother’s role in TV programme ‘House Party’; own watching of comedy TV programmes ‘Not the Nine O’clock News’ and ‘Blackadder’. [23:02] Story of running away from Hastings back to father in London, related to custody battle and to own ambition to ‘get into space’ (developed at age of 3 through watching of TV programme ‘The Clangers’ and footage of moon landings). Mentions mother’s feelings of having been betrayed by self and sister. [26:04] Comments on attending La Sainte Union Catholic School [LSUCS] in Belsize Park, Highgate, Camden, London to begin GCSEs, including story of joining the ‘top stream’. [26:49] Comments on experience of schooling before this point, with stories of difficulties caused by dyslexia. [daughter talking about spider at window] [29:28] Further story of feeling restricted/bored at school. [30:06] Comments on experience of being placed in ‘remedial class’ at boarding school, during period of time living with father; father’s valuing of education and tendency to discuss own university plans from a young age. [daughter talks about her own future plans!] [31:28] Comments on father’s reaction to own difficulties at school, including optimistic advice. Mentions playing of chess at home, while not succeeding at school. Mentions effect of school on self: feelings of inferiority, worsening of eczema. Story of finding question asked in a science lesson easy; later visits to library with father to library to borrow books on science [interruption] including book that father had read by [Dorothy] Nelkin. Comments on sudden progress/success in science lessons, with positive effect on performance in other subjects. [35:32] Detailed comments on teaching/learning of science at LSUCS, including role of particular teacher. Story of father’s loss of sight. [38:15] Comments on teaching/learning of other subject at LSUCS. Story of finding books ‘Heidi’ and ‘The Secret Garden’ better than televised versions; beginnings of reading of science fiction. Comments on content of John Wyndham’s ‘Chocky’; recognition of reoccurrence of unusual names in science fiction stories without necessarily having to read those names accurately. [41:40] Detailed comments of origin of interest in space/space travel, including significance of own experience of racism/feeling an outsider in relation to both the UK and Nigeria, with comments on TV programmes ‘The Clangers’ and ‘Star Trek’. Comments on tendency as a child to be emotional, but not express emotions, leading to identification with fictional characters such as Spock and Sherlock Holmes. [44:48] Brief comments on effect on self of racism/teasing at school, especially desire for ‘escape’. [45:40] Comments on childhood toys, including tendency to lose toys through many moves as a child. [47:08] Comments on time spent on Hampstead Heath, London as an older child. Mentions Golders Green. Comments on friends made at schools (lost through moves) including tendency to associate with quieter, ‘bookish’ children; lifelong anger at sight of bullying. [51:01] Comments on own ambitions as older school child, including specific goal of space travel, consideration of Air Force and science as two routes to this goal. Discussion of this ambition, including own perception as older child of science and scientists. Positive comments on teacher of science, Colonel Andrews [daughter talking]. [55:07] Story of looking at book with astronaut on cover during ‘prep time’ at boarding school, aged 8. Comments on childhood interests in astronauts and test pilots. Further comments on childhood perception of scientists/science. Mentions A-Levels taken at LSUCS: physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics.

  • Description

    Life story interview with space scientist and television presenter, Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

  • Related links

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

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