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A Changing Planet

'A Changing Planet' is one of the themed strands of the Oral History of British Science programme, an initiative of National Life Stories in association with the Science Museum, and with support from the Arcadia Fund.

Dr Charles Swithinbank using a theodolite


Dr Charles Swithinbank using a theodolite during an Antarctic expedition, 1949-52
Image courtesy of Charles Swithinbank

'A Changing Planet' has recorded the life stories of British scientists and assistants who, in the second half of the twentieth century and beyond, have been central to efforts to understand the Earth – its interior, surface, atmosphere and expanses of water and ice.  Their work has led to key revelations, such as the discovery of the ozone hole, the understanding of climate change (including human induced change), the diagnosis of the causes of acid rain, and the revelation of plate tectonics.  Glaciologists explain how physics was applied to measure the depth and flow of glaciers and ice sheets.  Geologists describe the use of radioactive isotopes to provide the first ever dates for the origin and metamorphosis of surface rocks.  Oceanographers tell stories of their use of new instruments to map the sea floor, measure the global flow of water at depth and the propagation of waves at the surface.  Meteorologists, atmospheric scientists, mathematicians and climate scientists give detailed accounts of their role in the development of satellites and computer ‘models’ to understand one of the most complicated systems on Earth – the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere (and its outcome – climate and the weather).  Geophysicists tell the story of work that led to the recognition that, far from fixed, the surface of the Earth is composed of rigid plates, moving in relation to each other.  And scientists working in various disciplines explain how natural objects and materials (trees, fossil beetles and pollen, sand grains, the shells of sea creatures, bubbles in ice) record the history of Earth’s climate. 

Many of the interviews recorded for the 'Changing Planet' strand are made available in full on the British Library’s Sounds website, while the Voices of Science web resource offers curated access to audio and video highlights from the interviews organised by theme, discipline and interviewee.


Contact us

If you have any queries regarding the Oral History of British Science programme please contact us at:

National Life Stories
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel  +44 (0)20 7412 7404


PDF files

The links below are to Adobe PDF files. Accessibility solutions and free Reader software are available from Adobe.

Related links

Voices of Science

External links

The Arcadia Fund

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