Category: People

Academic Interviews: David Phillips 2014

David PhillipsThis is the first in a series of interviews with leading academics from Imperial College London. The aim, is to gain an insight into the person and also the work that they are carrying out at the college. Our first interview is with Professor David Phillips who came to the Department of Chemistry at Imperial in 1989 from the Royal Institution. There, he was deputy to the Director, Lord George Porter; who prior to David, had also come to work at the college in 1987. At Imperial David held the Hoffmann Chair and his work studied the fluorescence in biological systems. He later became the head of the Department of Chemistry (1992-2002).

David is well known for his lively and entertaining lectures, normally ending with very loud bangs and flashes. You can see Chemical Christmas Crackers, one example,  or a even Little Light Relief, both on our YouTube channel. In 1987 David jointly presented that years Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, entitled Crystals and Lasers.

For this interview, Professor Lord Robert Winston talks to David Phillips about his life and work.

The next video in this series will be Robert Winston talking to Professor Robert (Bob) Spence.

Colin Grimshaw December 2014

Lord Flowers Interview: Dec 1980

I have recently rediscovered the first interview shot with a Rector in colour. It was recorded in December 1980 in the Sherfield Building office of Lord Flowers (1924-2010) who was Rector from 1973 to 1985.

Lady and Lord Flowers Dec 2000
Lady and Lord Flowers in 2000

The student TV (STOIC)  had expressed an interest in interviewing him and I agreed to collaborate in the recording to enable it to be shot in colour. I thought at the time, that this would be good from an archive point-of-view. And 34 years later, my idea has just paid off! There are several other blog entries on Lord and Lady Flowers, but this one had escaped me until now. The interviewer is Mike Prosser, with an introduction made in the college’s former TV Studio. The interview was made as a ‘special’, within the normal weekly programme called News-Break. That programme was transmitted to all of the college halls across campus, as well as the union building. As in previous early colour videos  featured within this blog, it will not be up to even the standards of a modern domestic camcorder, but at least we do have it.  The previous colour interview with Lord Flowers was featured in my 2010 entry. That previous video was from 1984 and I had only just rediscovered it, so this 1980 video is adding to our collection. The last time I saw Lord Flowers was during a short visit to his house and we were sitting around his kitchen table having lunch with Lady Flowers.

Colin Grimshaw November 2014

Colin Vickery with Bob Spence: 1997

In 1997 Professor Bob Spence interviewed Dr Colin Vickery, a colleague of his from the Department of Electrical Engineering. The intention was to show the video during an Alumni event that Colin was unable to attend. I hope that maybe some of those same Alumni will watch that video once more.
Colin Vickery has very kindly sent me some words to put the video into context, so most of this is his hard work and not mine! And Bob Spence has provided me with the excellent photos that were taken at Bob’s 80th Birthday celebration in 2013, that I also attended.

Colin Vickery in July 2013
Colin Vickery in July 2013

Colin was, at the time of the interview, running a postgraduate section on microprocessor applications.  Bob Spence and Colin Vickery had shared a flat during the time that they were doing PhDs under Roy Boothroyd who was Prof Colin Cherry’s Reader. Colin Vickery had come back from industry where he’d spent a couple of years with the Plessey company working in a small research unit in Romsey and was appointed as a lecturer for a period, working for Cherry/Boothroyd and was then invited to join Prof Bruce Sayers in his Engineering in Medicine section where he stayed for many more years. Prior to this, he’d travelled to Houston, USA, where he joined a summer school which was run for a mixture of Medical and Engineering people. There he learned basic physiology, while the medical people learned basic electrical engineering.

Colin with Sinclair Goodlad
Colin with Sinclair Goodlad

Eventually, Bruce Sayers became Head of Electrical Engineering and Colin was given a postgraduate section devoted to microprocessor applications, working alongside colleagues Dick Wilde and Bill Cutler who were both on his staff. After a year or two they were appointed as consultants on the government Mapcon scheme (Microprocessor application consultants) and did a variety of feasibility and implementation studies including small hydroelectric projects, such as Wookey Hole and Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. He joined with Prof Anderson in a project, for a firm in Horsham, de-boning bacon backs using robotics. It was exhibited in the exhibition at the college in 1985 (City and Guilds Tech2000) which Margaret Thatcher opened and then toured; telling them all that, ‘..she knew all about bacon’ (her Father was a grocer)!

In June 1998, a year after this interview, he suffered a stroke, but continued to work for the college part time until 2010 when he was 75 years old. This interview is a reminder of those times now long past and some of the people that made up the college in the 1950’s and onwards.

Colin Grimshaw September 2014

Industry and City & Guilds 1986

Way back in 1986, Bruce Sayers, then Dean of City and Guilds College, asked me to make a video which would give a view and a voice as to how C&G was connecting with Industry. Ten final year C&G students were interviewed and their opinions sort on both industry and their future careers. The then president of the Imperial College Union, Christine Taig fronts the video. Peter Moore was then the Careers Advisor for Mechanical Engineering and had studied some of the reasons why graduates did not want to actually work in industry after leaving college. It ends by making the point that then, in 1986, 20-30% of C&G graduates ended up in non-techincal jobs.

As usual there are some nice 1980’s stock footage shots of the college. The sequences with Christine Taig were of course shot years before the many changes across campus that built the Faculty Building and lost the grass and trees area, then called Dalby Court. You’ll see the view across that area and with Mechanical Engineering clearly in total view and this is how it would have seen, when the area was first built and designed.

Colin Grimshaw August 2014

Professor Patrick Purcell: 1995

Professor Patrick Purcell (1929-2007) was described in his Times obituary as “Pioneer of computing and design“. As far as I know, this is the only interview made with Patrick, whom I got to know during his time as visiting professor of human computer interaction at Imperial College London. I had actually known him prior to that via LIVE-NET Video Conference from Northern Ireland linking through to Imperial.

Video Interface 1995
A Video Interface recording 1995

Until his death, he worked along side Professor Bob Spence, who commented after Patrick’s death “…when I realised that Patrick Purcell was approaching retirement from his appointment in Northern Ireland I immediately suggested to the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of Imperial that he be invited to be a Visiting Professor. A very selfish act, no doubt, but one I have never regretted…”

At my suggestion, this interview was recorded for an outside company called Lantec and was in the occasional series called Video Interface. Because of Patrick’s depth of knowledge of all things ‘digital’, this was the obvious first question posed to him at the start of the interview by Steve Bell. It was recorded in the Imperial College TV Studio in June 1995.

Colin Grimshaw June 2014

Professor Jim Ring: 1980

This interview with Professor Jim (James) Ring (1927-2005) was recorded for the Imperial College Archives and this is the first time that it has been seen since it was made. Jim Ring was educated at the University of Manchester. He joined the staff there as a lecturer before moving to become Professor of Applied Physics at the University of Hull in 1962. He joined Imperial as Professor of Physics in 1967 and became Professor of Infra-Red Astronomy, having given his inaugural lecture in June 1968. As will become apparent from the interview, he was on the board of the Independent Broadcasting Authority for over 5 years. He also chaired the Imperial College Educational Technology Committee, which was how I got to know him. He featured a few times on the BBC Sky at Night as well as other BBC radio programmes. Ex Queen member Brian May completed most of his PhD in Astrophysics in Jim Ring’s group at Imperial College in 1970-74.

Colour CameraThe interview was recorded in his office in the Physics Department and the interviewer was Grant Richmond. It was made in November 1980 and like all of these very old videotapes, it’s suffering slightly from its age. It was also shot using our (then) new colour equipment, which actually consisted of a single colour camera and portable u-matic recorder. It was not the world’s most amazing camera and needed a lot of light to get good pictures, which even then, looked ‘soft’. The photo above is a of me making the video at the college tin mine in April 1980 and is the same camera and recording equipment used for this interview.

Colin Grimshaw May 2014

Queen Mother opens Biochemistry 1965

This is an update to the original entry earlier this year. Pathe have just released all of its archive onto YouTube, so I am now able to bring you the film clip direct and in higher quality, rather than going via their own website.

In November 1965 the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited Imperial College to officially open the newly completed Department of Biochemistry, headed by Sir Ernst Chain (1906-1979).  What you will see are the original 1965 (silent) film rushes shot by Pathe News for its weekly newsreel, shown in cinemas at that time. These newsreels ended in 1970. It is to be assumed that the final edited film (if that ever happened) would have had a commentary on it, but this is all silent.

icimagesThis film record by Pathe is one of the few that were shot on campus at this time. Sequences include the arrival, at the old college Exhibition Road entrance; Sir Patrick Linstead (Rector), Sir Ernst Chain and Lord Sherfield (Chairman Governing Body) all greeting the Queen Mother upon her arrival. This film would have been shot some 8 months before the sudden death of Linstead. You will also see the very obvious building work taking place across the entire campus, with a complete gap where Sherfield and the library now stand. Finally and most importantly, there are shots of Chain in his laboratory, something that we do not have in our own archives.

Were you in the crowd that day? Maybe you are one of the students lining up to speak with the Queen Mother at the end of the film? If you are, then do let us know.

Colin Grimshaw April 2014

Dr Harold R Allen 1983

Allen2Dr Harold R Allen came to Imperial College as a lecturer in October 1947 after completing a PhD at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory. He made major contributions to the Physics Department but more importantly to the musical activities within the college.

In this interview, recorded in 1983 and not long before his retirement, he talks about the 1960 transfer from the old buildings occupied by Physics, to the brand new building on the corner of Prince Consort Road and Queens Gate. Physics was the first department within Imperial College to move into an entirely new building. As well as this, he discusses his colleagues that were in the department during his years as a member of staff. There’s an interesting anecdote too about the initial design of the Physics lecture theatre and columns that were originally planned, but which would have reduced vision across the entire space.

Physics BuildingSir Roderic Hill who was Rector the time (1948-1954), is discussed as being the person to have started what was then called General Studies. Lady Hill had discovered during a conversation with Dr Allen that he had an interest in music and asked him what was the strength of musical activities going on within the college. All of this lead to the formation of a choir to sing at the then newly created Commemoration Day, the purchase of a piano followed along with the creation of a ‘space for musical activities’. He became leader, organiser and treasurer of the college orchestra.

This interview was recorded in the Imperial College TV Studio on 18th July 1983, especially for the college archives. It was intended to capture the people and history of the college for others to enjoy in the future; we are doing that now, over 30 years later!

 

A piece of sad news from Linda Jones in the Blackett Lab is that Harold Allen died on September 5th of this year, 2014.

Colin Grimshaw April 2014

Dennis Gabor Retrospective 2000

For the centenary of Dennis Garbor’s birth on 5th June 1900 we recorded this retrospective discussion between Professor Igor Aleksander and former Imperial Rector, Professor Sir Eric Ash. Eric Ash graduated from Imperial with a first class honours degree in electrical engineering in 1948 and received his doctorate four years later in 1952. His Ph.D. supervisor was Dennis Gabor, so he has first hand knowledge of the man and the research he was carrying out at that time. Eric Ash and Igor Aleksander have both been heads of Electrical Engineering Departments, Ash at University College London and Aleksander at Imperial College London. In this recording they discuss the work of Dennis Gabor that lead to him receiving the Nobel Prize in 1971 for his invention of Holography. I met Gabor just once, when he very briefly discussed with me his previous (unsuccessful) ideas for a flat TV tube (at the time, we were standing in the TV Studio in front of a Sony Trinitron colour TV).

This recording was made in the Imperial College TV Studio in May 2000.

Colin Grimshaw March 2014

100 years: Mechanical and Civil Engineering

It was only recently that I was made aware of the fact that both Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering were created as separate departments 100 years ago. In 1907 the City and Guilds College had a department that combined both civil and mechanical engineering. W. E. (Ernest) Dalby was then Dean of the C&G College and Professor of Engineering. Following recommendations (made by the Wolfe Barry Committee), in 1913 Dalby’s department was split in two, when separate civil and mechanical engineering departments were created. Stephen Dixon was appointed to head the civil engineering department and W.E. Dalby remained Dean of the C&G and also head of mechanical engineering.

So that’s clearly a very good reason to see what we have in the video archives that shows, or relates to, both of these departments. Seen many times before we have the amazing 1960 colour film of the City and Guilds building on Exhibition Road. Shown in the film, during the demolition of the building, is the construction of the new Mechanical Engineering Department, of which we get a ‘tour’. This video is silent please note.

New to our YouTube channel is a video I have only just recently digitised. I made it in 1993 as a promotional video for Civil Engineering under the title of ‘Building your Future’. Many aspects of the department are featured and past students are seen talking about their jobs and careers outside of Imperial. You’ll also see a field trip we made to a central London construction site.

And finally a video (or more correctly film) with links to both departments. It’s the (c)1969 film ‘This week in Britain’. Those who remember Civil Engineering from that period will immediately spot where both the opening and closing sequences were shot on the main staircase. Watch out for the Civil Engineering hydraulics lab and the Mechanical Engineering workshops, plus more.

 

Colin Grimshaw March 2014