Oral history of British science

Humphrey, Nicholas (5 of 13).  An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Science and Religion

  • Recording date

    2016-05-24, 2016-05-31, 2016-06-02, 2016-07-05

  • Recording locations

    The British Library and interviewees' home, Cambridge

  • Interviewees

    Humphrey, Nicholas, 1943- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: Detailed comments on character/abilities of monkey Helen. Discussion of names of monkeys and abbreviations used in 'Nature' paper, 1967; cooperativeness of Helen in experimental work (mentions video footage); own interest in reproducibility of results on colour preferences between different monkeys; importance of experimental set up in reducing 'noise' in data; ways in which the prose/presentation of individual scientists may contribute to particular ways in which new findings are attended to/acted on by others. Comments on story of Henry Ford at beginning of chapter 'The Social Function of Intellect'. [14:11] Comments on relations with/reading of books of ethologists, including Desmond Morris, Jane Goodall [JG]; differences between experimental psychology and ethology; low standing of 'social psychology' at time of writing 'The Social Function of Intellect'; lack of ethology/animal behaviour in own degree (though attended seminars of ethology Bill Thorpe at UOC); experience of SDAB as relaxed/convivial in contrast to more competitive departments of experimental psychology; tendency for ethologists in SDAB (DF and JG excepted) to have wealthy backgrounds and to have been privately educated; "strange" character of DF. Story of DF's murder; relationship between DF and then PhD student Sandy Harcourt. Comments on own relations with DF; DF's affair with Bob Campbell. [23:57] Further comments on development of thoughts on social function of intellect in Rwanda in relation to lives of observed gorillas and own life; influence of 'The Social Function of Intellect' on development of social psychology. [26:47] Story of visit to Richard Leakey's palaeo-anthropological field site on Lake Turkana, Kenya through contact at 'New Scientist' [NS] (mentions work for NS as 'psychology consultant'; own daughter's recent fieldwork as part of anthropology/archaeology degree). [33:16] Comments on "transformative" influence on own outlook/thinking/career of visits to Africa. [34:30] [Section closed 34:30 - 39:04] [39:04] Description of SDAB at time of own work there, including comments on its first Director Bill Thorpe [BT] and senior members Robert Hinde [RH] and Pat Bateson [PB], effect of RH's appearance/character in recruitment of research students, DF's background and introduction to ethology, Richard Wrangham's work on primates and Tim Clutton-Brock's on red deer, PB's studies of play in cats, sociability focused on tea times and lunch in public house, evening games, absence of "sexual tensions" present in department at UO. Story of seminar in RH's rooms, St John's College. [Section closed from 50:14 to 52:46] [52:46] Positive comments on relations with/abilities and character of DD [telephone call].

  • Description

    Life story interview with Professor of Psychology Dr Nicholas Humphrey

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