In 1982 all the talk around campus was about the Fermentation Plant in the Bio-Chemistry building. The plant had been transferred to a private company to be called Imperial Biotechnology and employing its own members of technical staff. The plant was set up initially to satisfy the needs of Sir Ernst Chain in the 1960’s. There is excellent footage of the building and the plant in my previous blog where the Queen Mother opened the building.
This is one video in a series that we recorded called ‘Academic Interviews’ and it featured Professor Dame Julia Higgins.
Julia has been studying the behaviour of complex materials, particularly polymers, at Imperial College London since joining as a lecturer in the Chemical Engineering Department in 1976. Her research group specialises in the use of neutron scattering techniques to investigate polymer behaviour. She was appointed reader in 1985 and professor of polymer sciences in 1989.
She was elected Dean of the City and Guilds College from 1993 to 1997 and was appointed CBE in 1996. In 1995 Julia was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1999. She was named a Dame in the 2001 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Here, she is talking with Professor Lord Robert Winston.
There were three organisations collaborating in this European SPRINT project, Imperial College in the UK, AIN in Spain, and
DTI in Denmark. SPRINT was the European commission’s Strategic PRogramme for INnovation and Technology.
This July 1994 video was an introduction to surface treatment of metal tools by the use of Ion Implantation. This technique modifies the tool
surface, improving the wear, corrosion resistance, and frictional properties. The project disseminated knowledge and
applications of Ion Implantation as an effective surface treatment and was targeted mainly at European Small-to-Medium
Enterprises, to improve their productivity and competitiveness in the world market.
It was made in three language versions which were produced for the three SPRINT partners by the Imperial College TV Studio and a fourth version in French, made for I.B.S. As well as the UK, we went to Denmark and Spain to record the relevant sections of the video. The photo above was taken at DTI in Denmark, you can see me operating camera along with my Imperial academic colleague Tom Tate sitting on the chair on the far right hand side. The video’s voice-over was by Michael Rodd.
In 2003 we produced a DVD for the undergraduate course in the Faculty of Life Sciences. The DVD covered course details for Biochemistry & Biology in the Department of Biological Sciences and Agricultural Science in the Department of Agricultural Sciences.
Larry Hench, Emeritus Professor of Ceramic Materials died on 16 December 2015.
He joined Imperial in 1995 from the University of Florida, having made the seminal discovery in 1969 of Bioglass − the first reported synthetic material to form a bond with living tissues.
As Chair in Ceramic Materials at Imperial, he set out to uncover the basic cell biology mechanisms that gives Bioglass its remarkable properties. He set up the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Centre with the late Professor Dame Julia Polak. There they made the fascinating discovery that the unique bone growing properties of the glass were due to the dissolution products of the glass stimulating bone cells at the genetic level. Members of their team went on to make the glass into 3D scaffolds for use in bone regeneration.
The only video footage in our archive is what we shot for inclusion in his inaugural lecture in June 1996. And, unlike other inaugurals that we have recorded clips for, this one actually has him in it.
One area where the archives are sadly lacking in both audio and videos recordings is on the subject of Imperial’s Nobel Laureates. And, as always, my appeal is to anyone who may have something to boost our collection, in either audio/video/film and so one. This current entry will focus on those Nobel Prize winners for whom we have recordings.
In 1948 Dennis Gabor (1900-1979) joined Imperial College as Reader in Electron Physics, he was appointed FRS in 1956 and Professor of Applied Electron Physics in 1958, retiring from the Chair to become Professor Emeritus and Research Fellow in 1967. His experiments on holography began in the 1940’s and on the flat television tube in the 1950’s. The model for his flat TV tube is held by the college archives. I met him only once when he was in our TV Studio to watch a film. On leaving, he spoke to me about the Sony colour TV we had. He said “Ah you have a Sony colour television” to which my reply was along the lines that the Japanese were very clever with their technology. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me that the principle of its workings (the TV’s single electron gun cathode ray tube) was something that he had proposed and suggested, but for which funding could not be found at that time and that the idea went to Japan and was used in those Sony televisions.
For the Invention of Holography, Gabor was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1971. A few months later on 22 February 1972 Gabor repeated his Nobel lecture, but this time for a special audience at Imperial. For us we are fortunate that a sound recording was made of the event. It’s not amazing quality, but I’ve done what I can with the sound to help improve it and also slowed down the tape that was clearly running too fast when I played it back. It’s introduced by the Rector at the time Lord Penney and there’s a vote of thanks by a departmental colleague, Professor Colin Cherry. That itself is interesting as the only sound recording we currently have of Cherry speaking at Imperial ++. Even more interesting are the references by both Penney and Gabor to power cuts. This was because of the 1972 Miner’s Strike and the so called “three day week”. Imperial, like all other places was subject to limited mains power during the day and at specified times the entire campus would be plunged into darkness….even Nobel Prize winners!
In 1981 I made a promotional video for the department of chemistry. A section within the video included one of the current students talking to Professor Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson (1921-1996) in the office. At the time, Wilkinson was head of department. It’s a pity that this is such a general video and that we never recorded anything more in-depth with him. I’ve been able to go back to the original ‘rushes’ (that is the original videotape shot at the time) of this interview to improve quality slightly, but it was made 30 years ago on our original low-band U-matic colour recording system (a single-striped faced, vidicon tube camera).
The only other recording of him was made in February 1992. this was for a video called “Snapshots”. The video brought together some of the current research being carried out at Imperial and showcased it for, primarily, an external audience. This sequence however is very short indeed and is the only record we have of Geoffrey Wilkinson in his research lad. And, for what ever reason, I don’t seem to have the original rushes any more so can’t see if there was anything else recorded at the time.
Finally we take a look at Professor Lord George Porter (1920-2002). He became chairman of the Centre for Photomolecular Sciences (and Professor of Photochemistry) at Imperial in 1987. He received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967. He was a former Director of the Royal Institution (1966-1985) and this was when I first met him. That was during the 1966 televising of the Christmas Lectures with Eric Laithwaite (see Laithwaite blog entry). This first recording is fun because we recorded it in his lab in the basement of the Beit Building. It’s full of lasers, for which I’m sure he should have been wearing safety glasses.
Lastly, a unique recording of Lord Porter. This was not actually a planned videotaped lecture as such. In August 1995 he was asked to give the 10th Lee Kuan Yew lecture in Singapore. As he was unable to attend in person it was suggested he gave the talk via a videoconference link. We re-arranaged our TV studio to allow it to link into our videoconference system. You may spot him looking down at a monitor which was showing him the audience in Singapore and at one point talking to Martin Sayers behind the camera to confirm timings. He was very easy to work with and like Eric Laithewaite skilled in presenting on TV and film.
Prior to the day, he telephoned me several times to discuss details. He had a habit (so I was told) of sitting in his garden in summer months and making calls on a cordless phone. However, he was always at the limit of range of the base unit and was barely audible, so the call was full of hiss and crackle. It was only by chance that I happened to put a videotape into a recorder to make a record of the event and I’m glad I did. So here is the lecture, given live to Singapore, on a very hot London day on 2 August 1995. And because it was so hot, we left the usually noisy air-con unit switched on and you may hear that in the background.
It’s not until you start to look at individual tapes in our archive that you realise how many different videos have, or could have, a link between them. In this latest blog I’ve found an example of that with two research videos made for the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department ( Electrical Engineering Department as it was when these were made). We’ll also be seeing something of the actual department from the past. I should also point out that until 1976 were part of that department (a departmental facility) and as such located within the building. Our first location was on the 3rd floor moving to the main walkway level 2, where many of you may remember us.
In February 1981 Professor J.C Anderson (“Andy” Anderson 1922-2001) asked me to make a video showcasing the research in his Electrical Materials section within the department. I can’t recall the exact reason why we made the video, but am assuming it was to do with an open day, or similar, for Postgraduate research students, hence his references to getting PhD’s at the end of the video. The research going on at that time is shown and he makes reference to the work by Mino Green on Electrochromic Displays, but more on that in a moment.
Andy was very keen on the use of modern technologies for teaching, research and promotion and was the Chairman of the “Educational Technology Committee” (long since disbanded). It was his idea that I should be the only non-academic (although I was on the ‘academic related staff’) member of that committee to be able to update and advise on matters relating to the use of video within Imperial. He was not afraid to appear in front of the camera or, as in this case, record a voice-over as well. So here is the video we made with him: “Electrical Materials Research at Imperial College”
In the previous video, mention was made of the work by Professor Mino Green (1927-2022) (then Dr) on Electrochromic Displays. This work was already being carried out at the time of the previous recording. In fact the first video on Electrochromic Displays was made a year earlier in April 1980. We made some 7 videos on the subject with the last being in March 1993. I gather that Professor Green’s work has now moved away from such devices, but the concept was interesting and novel. The video itself is an example of how to show large numbers of people the research work being carried out by a small dedicated group. Even as long ago as 1980 we were having copies made into the American NTSC TV system to enable research work to be showcased in the USA, Mino Green’s was an example of this. Here is the video from 1993 on “Electrochromic Displays and Windows”.
Mino was an Emeritus Professor of the Science of Electrical Devices. His webpage described his work as “…The interplay of solid state physics and chemistry, particularly physical chemistry, has been an abiding interest. This has led through many areas, including semiconductor electrochemistry, chem- and physi-sorption on semiconductors, thermoelectric systems, solid state photo-and e-beam-decomposition, and transition metal oxide electrochromic systems. Now my main interests are in the larger end of nano-systems…”. In 1980 STOIC recorded an interview with Mino where he explains his area of research, you can see that video above.
Finally for this particular blog I’ve pulled something out of the archive from 1978 and you’ll see that in just a moment. It was a video made to showcase the whole department rather than a particular division or research project. Again, I can’t recall the exact reason why we were asked to make the video, but assume it was either an open day or event with alumni for example. Open day is more likely as the video is dated June 1978. It was a major task to make too, as editing was primitive on our old Ampex open spool one-inch tape machines. Nothing was automatic and edit points were marked with white (‘chinagraph’) wax pencils onto the tapes directly, spooled back and then run up to speed for editing. Recently I re-discovered a tape, made in 1974, where we are showing what the studio could do. So, before we see that 1978 video, here I am in our original TV Studio number 1, showing briefly the Ampex recorder in use, which I can assure you was as heavy as it looked!
At this time, we had no real means to record outside of the studio. One option though was to link from a location back to the studio by cable. And, because we were located in the Electrical Engineering, the whole building had video cables running from the ground, to top floors. We then had the ability to run from a location point on each main floor, down to the studio and potentially elsewhere. In the end, cables were available to and from many different buildings around the South Kensington campus. However, by this time we had already gained the ability to record outside of the studio having just moved into colour operation on the U-matic tape format. Portable battery operation was then made possible. The video that follows is an example of this.
So back then to the video I made for Electrical Engineering . The video did require a voice-over, but could I get anyone to volunteer to record it for me? Well the answer was no and being at a stage of needing to start the editing I had to do it myself. That aside, the video is a unique record of the department showing its teaching and facilities. I was asked to make specific reference to the fact that every lecture room was equipped with an ‘overhead projector’, how times have changed! The department also had its own glassblower, electronics servicing and draftsman. Here then is a snapshot (in black and white) of the department as it was in the early summer of 1978.