Category: People

Rectors: Sir Patrick Linstead

Sir Patrick Linstead (1902–66) was an organic chemist educated at Imperial College, whose work included the discovery of Phthalocyanine dyes. Linstead’s period as Rector (1954-1966) encompassed a time of great change. Much of the South Kensington campus was completely rebuilt during the 1950s and in the early 1960s the Empire was giving way to the new Commonwealth. This caused him to consider changing Imperial’s name, but he was implored not to by former students. In 1962, he foresaw Imperial’s eventual departure from the University of London in July 2007, writing that Imperial’s ‘importance in the educational scene is not reflected in the practices and procedures of the university’. He died in 1966 while still in office as Rector. What we have, fortunately, are some audio recordings made during his time at Imperial College.

First is his speech from the Mansion House “Jubilee” dinner, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Imperial College in 1957.
Second he is speaking during the opening of the Roderic Hill Building in the presence of The Queen Mother in 1957.
Third we have him speaking on BBC radio in February 1958, just as the Jubilee celebrations were ending. He talks about the expansion of the college which had already started at the time he was speaking. The colour photo above, which is of his official painting, depicts him holding the plans for the expansion of the college.

 

Mansion House 1957

 

Roderick Hill Building Opening 1957

 

BBC Radio 1958
 

Colin Grimshaw February 2013

Snapshots: 1992

Predating the 1993 Undergraduate and Postgraduate Videos, seen in a previous blog, Lady Clare Ash (the wife of former Rector Sir Eric Ash) made a one-off video called Snapshots.

Lady Clare Ash in 2007

It was made to showcase just some of the then current research taking place at Imperial. I seem to recall that Eric Ash was about to go on an overseas trip to several countries, including India and that this was made to accompany his presentations. You’ll notice the emphasis on past Imperial Nobel Prize winners at the start of the video and a rather slow list of Imperial’s Fellows of the Royal Society towards the end.

Several areas of research from around the college were featured. Two Nobel Prize winners included were the late Lord George Porter (1920-2002) and the late Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson (1921-1996), both are seen working in their respective labs. Bob Schroter (featured in a previous blog) talks about his work with Camels; Steve Ley, formerly from Chemistry, discusses pest control, whilst Howard Thomas from St Mary’s talks about Hepatitis Vaccine.

Towards the end, we featured some of the first ‘vox pops’ in one of our videos, where current students talk about their experiences and views of being at Imperial College. You will see the first aerial footage of Imperial used at the start of the video.  This was provided to us by the (then) University of London Audio Visual Centre and was shot by them as part of a 16mm film they made for Channel Four Television. The video concludes with the former Rector himself, Sir Eric Ash, speaking direct to the audience with his views on where Imperial is today and what his vision is for Imperial tomorrow. This was shot in the old Rectors office up in the Sherfield Building.

 

Colin Grimshaw – February 2014

Eric Laithwaite RI Christmas Lectures 1974

Eric Laithwaite at the 1966 lectures
The 1966 lecture series

Eric Laithwaite was the first person to present the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on television in 1966 on BBC2 (in black and white). The New Scientist photo below is the front cover from December 1966 previewing the forthcoming lecture series. That lecture series was called The Engineer in Wonderland. In my previous blog on Eric Laithwaite you will find references to both that lecture series and also the second series he was asked to give in 1974. I was present at some of the lectures in both of those years. Now, the Royal Institution has made available, via their web site, all of the 1974 Christmas Lecture series The Engineer Through the Looking Glass. For those interested, it’s a treat to see him at his best, in front of a live audience! You will see below a list of the six lectures in that series.

new-scientist-1966You may recall that there was some controversy over the content of lecture six where Eric Laithwaite demonstrated his theories of gyroscopes and how he thought he may have found that gyroscopes violated the law of conservation of energy. It appears that Laithwaite was waiting for the sixth and final lecture with something new and controversial, possibly breaking these laws of science. I have recently found the BBC archive pages of past editions of Radio Times. In them, I found the references and listing for the 1966 RI Christmas Lectures (The Engineer in Wonderland), the first to be televised and also given by Eric Laithwaite. The listing for the sixth and final lecture is interesting. Although I was actually present at that lecture I don’t remember the content, but the listing reference is very, very interesting it reads “Professor Laithwaite tries a completely new experiment which he hopes will break one of the laws of science. All the text books say it cannot be done. Will the experiment succeed?“.  So, here we are again in 1974 with the sixth and final lecture (It’s my own invention) and once again Eric Laithwaite is trying something new, controversial and possibly breaking the laws of science in the process, is this a repeat of his idea from 1966? I must admit I hadn’t realised this until now! Maybe only he remembered the wording from that 1966 lecture? We’ll never know….

 

Lecture 1
LOOKING GLASS HOUSE

Lecture 2
TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE

Lecture 3
JAM YESTERDAY, JAM TOMORROW

Lecture 4
THE JABBERWOCK

Lecture 5
THE TIME HAS COME THE WALRUS SAID

Lecture 6
ITS MY OWN INVENTION

Colin Grimshaw January 2014 (revised November 2016)

Alumni Interview 2006: Bob Schroter

Bob Schroter came to the City and Guilds College, within the Imperial College, as an undergraduate student in 1959.

Bob during a parabolic flight

In this video, recorded in 2006 for the centenary celebrations of 2007, he talks about his time as an undergraduate, then as a postgraduate and finally a member of college staff. During his time as a student, Bob became the president of the students union and since then has become heavily involved in the Old Centralians Trust. His time as president of the union involved meetings and discussions with the then Rector, Sir Patrick Linstead. During the interview Bob talks about the Links Club and the various mascots of the student unions, particularly those of City and Guilds. The Exploration Board is mentioned and the fact that this was started only a matter of years before Bob became a student at Imperial College in the late 1950’s.

Bob ends by talking about the Physiological Flow Studies Unit (PFSU) (of which he became deputy head for many years) and his research, which involved working with Camels and then Horses.

If you would like to see more of this type of Alumni video interview and can make suggestions as to who should take part, then please contact me via the LEAVE A REPLY box below. We would very much appreciate people like Rogers Knight who can tell us stories about Imperial College life in times past, especially those pre-war.

Colin Grimshaw December 2013

Alumni Interview 2006: Rogers Knight

In the year preceding the 2007 Imperial College Centenary, a project I had suggested was started between Media Services and the Imperial College Archives. It interviewed all living past Rectors and the then current Rector Sir Richard Sykes. Since that time former Rector Lord Brian Flowers has died, so these interviews, in my view, have proved a worthwhile exercise. Also included were prominent members of the college community. We also interviewed an Alumni; Rogers Knight (6th December 1915 – 29th March 2015) who was a student of the City and Guilds College from 1934-1938. He also became heavily involved in student life and then years later with the Old Centralians Trust.

He tells us that, at the time he was a student, the whole student body was something like 1200. In the Royal School of Mines about 100 and the Royal College of Science and City and Guilds were about the same size at around 500 or so each. Rogers remembers the College Porter, dressed in his formal red morning coat, standing on the College steps every morning, greeting every student by name. I can’t see that happening any more! He says that, in his opinion, the buildings we had then, the Royal College of Science, the original City and Guild’s Building (above) and the Royal School of Mines were built with care and attention. He was interviewed by College Archivist Anne Barrett on 22 August 2006 in the College TV Studio

If you would like to see more of this type of Alumni video interview and can make suggestions as to who should take part, then please contact me via the LEAVE A REPLY box below. We would very much appreciate people like Rogers Knight who can tell us stories about Imperial College life in times past, especially those pre-war.

I was sad to hear that Rogers had died in March 2015 at the amazing age of 99! This interview is therefore even more important in recording the history of Imperial College from times past.

Colin Grimshaw August 2015 (updated)

Imperial College Video Prospectuses 1993

20 years ago, in 1993, an attempt was made at the production of an ideally ongoing video prospectus, one for undergraduates and one for postgraduates.

Unusually for a student recruitment piece, these were conceived by the then Rector’s wife, Clare Ash and produced by her daughter Jenny (who was working in TV production) – effectively making two videos in parallel using a great number of the same shoots in both.  Without more involvement from the departments and central services, the videos perhaps didn’t capture the imagination of academics or administrators.

Probably ahead of its time, the project didn’t have the required support from the offices handling recruitment and PR and it didn’t continue – but they do capture the spirit and feel of the College some twenty years ago.

 

Undergraduate Video
If you look at this, see the graphics and say “What?”, then you’ll know my thoughts, both then and even now some twenty years on! There are great shots of the old language lab and Richard Dickins with the college orchestra, both of these showing the non science side of Imperial. Once more we have some (now) important archive shots of Prince’s Gardens and the old halls, especially Linstead Hall showing the famous evening meal (photo on right). This was the only time this was recorded and is special for that reason. We also featured IC Radio, STOIC and Felix in production for that weeks edition. And finally we have the first ever video shots of a Commemoration Day at the Royal Albert Hall.

Postgraduate Video
In general this will look more or less the same as the undergraduate version, but includes some now unique shots of Lord George Porter working in his lab in the basement of the Beit Building (photo on left). We also ventured out to Silwood Park to show some research work going on there. At this time the Science Communication course had started and we almost featured ourselves by showing two of the students working at our editing suite (even though this was of course staged). Finally a great and short-lived hall is featured. Does anyone remember the Postgraduate only Montpelier Hall in Montpelier Street, almost within sight of Harrods? Well, that’s in here too towards the end of the video.

Its such a shame that neither of these videos were appreciated within the college because a massive amount of time and effort went into making them both. We used about 12 or more one-hour video cassettes for the ‘rushes’ and because they contain some very unique material such as George Porter I still have them today in our video archive. See what you think and let me know if you are seen appearing in either of them. Some years after we made them both, several boxes of unused and unrequired VHS tape copies of both of the videos were returned to me, they were all thrown in the bin!

Colin Grimshaw October 2013

City and Guilds College in 1960

You may be aware that a renaming of Mechanical Engineering has just taken place. The new 1960’s building, located on Exhibition Road, has just been renamed The City and Guilds Building. Pre 1960 Alumni will recall the original building, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1881. Previous blogs about City and Guilds recalls the history and includes a brief section of a 16mm colour film made in 1960. Here, I am showing for the first time the full unedited version. It’s silent and was intended to show the ‘old and new’ developments as the original building was slowly pulled down and the new building created behind it (hence the setback of the Mechanical Engineering Building from the roadway).

The film also shows the only record we have of Sir Owen Saunders (then Dean of City and Guilds 1955-1964 and also acting Rector 1966-1967). This is a unique piece of Imperial College history and the only film we have of the old buildings. The fact that it’s in colour is a added bonus.

Colin Grimshaw September 2013

Promotion: 4 – Mastering the Future 1985

Back in 2010 I brought you the two videos that were made to coincide with the City and Guilds centenary in 1985, they were Studying for the Future and Discovering the Future. I had promised to bring you a third video made later in that year called Mastering the Future. Obviously, this video was intended to showcase and promote the idea of taking a masters degree at Imperial College.

Key figures from Industry were featured to give a sense of what was required from University students taking such masters degrees. One person appearing was Sir George Porter, later Lord Porter who was then President of the Royal Institution. Later he moved to Imperial College to continue his research work. By the time the video was made Eric Ash had become Rector, superseding Brian Flowers. One of the few recordings that we have of Professor Bruce Sayers, then head of computing and also dean of City and Guilds is part of this video. Once more there are some great views of ‘Imperial past’ featured such as: the original front entrance on Exhibition Road; Sports Centre and Gym; Libraries and the 1960’s Walkway with Bookshop.

Colin Grimshaw September 2013

Rectors: Lord William Penney 1971

The oldest videotape recording of one of our rectors of Imperial College is that of Lord Penney (1909-1991). Rector of the college from 1967 to 1973 he took the post over from Sir Owen Saunders who was acting rector from 1966 to 1967 after the death of Sir Patrick Linstead in 1966. Recorded in 1971 for showing to students via the fledgling Student Television of Imperial College (STOIC). I can’t remember whether or not this was part of one of the trial news programmes called IC Newsreel, or perhaps designed as as stand-alone programme, I think maybe the latter is more likely.

Our studio, if you could have called it that, was rather basic and sparse.  As you’ll see in the video we had no background of any type at that time. The rare colour photo shows a slight improvement in 1974 when we managed to get some grey curtains! As this was well before the advent of the ‘tie-clip’ microphone, we used what were called neck-mics. A microphone on a thin cord that went around the neck and were very common at that time for PA system use. They did however provided much better sound than trying to use mics on stands or similar.

A former student of Imperial College, Lord Penney initially worked on the Manhattan Project during WW2 and was a flight observer of the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki. Penney was asked in 1947 to head the team that ultimately produced Britain’s first nuclear test and in 1957 this was successfully carried out off of the Australian coast.  He touches very briefly upon this during the interview, even though he was reluctant to discuss it in any great detail (he doesn’t actually mention the British nuclear test). You can watch the TV programme Equinox which includes an interview with Lady Penney. The interviewer for our video was Dave Willis, who I know very little about, other than he was a computer science postgrad student, but I don’t recall the years that he was at Imperial.

This is a newly restored version of the video that was shot originally on Ampex one-inch tape format. I’ve managed to clean, and brighten up, the image to a certain degree, but it is 42 years old. The original master tape now resides in the Imperial College Archives. On the link to the film of Operation Hurricane you’ll see Penney (on board a boat)  turning around and using Binoculars to see the resulting explosion.

Colin Grimshaw September 2013

Engineering with Atoms

26 years ago, in 1987 I made a promotional video for the Department of Materials. It had a slightly grander title that usual, “Engineering with Atoms: Materials, Science and Engineering at Imperial College”. Once again this video is a treasure of scenes and images of life at Imperial College in the mid 1980’s. And, as with most promotional videos that we made, it contained a large amount of ‘stock footage’ from previous videos and some of this is now notable because of the vast changes that have taken place on the South Kensington campus.

As with all promotional videos an enormous input was required from the actual department in terms of what they needed to say and to show. Getting the words right is vital, so from the department I was aided by colleagues: Kilner, Rawlings, Flower and Walker. The latter two also provided the male and female voice-overs heard on the video. Harvey Flower is notable because of his tragic death in April 2005. He’s also seen in one sequence sitting at an electron microscope and later on he’s standing with his colleague at a departmental party.

Other worthy mentions are Princes Gardens with its old layout design and masses of colourful summer flowers, along with the original halls of residence. Also making an appearance are the 1960’s frontage of buildings facing onto Exhibition Road; the walkway and JCR. Making it into the video as well is the old swimming pool and tennis courts (located where the new Eastside Halls now stand). I’m fairly certain that the departmental library would have been merged into the central library, so shots of that in the video are also a record of daily life in the department. In fact the whole video is a snapshot of what Imperial College was like in 1987 and a true Video Archive post if ever there was one!

The usual tape problems occurred with the digitisation of this video, so any slight glitches or jumps are due to those problems. As always, if you are seen in this video please do let us know where you are now and what you are doing. Use the reply box below to make contact with me.

Colin Grimshaw August 2013