Oral History of British Science
National Life Stories is creating a major archive for the study and public understanding of contemporary science in Britain through a new oral history fieldwork programme involving 200 in-depth interviews with British scientists.
An initiative of National Life Stories and the British Library in association with the Science Museum
Generously supported by The Arcadia Fund
Laboratory technician Ruth Reid examines a brain, 1957.
Image courtesy of DHA/NMeM/SSPL
Genetic engineering, fusion research, the internet, and climate change are topics daily discussed by the media. Yet little is known about important scientific and technological advances made in Britain that have transformed our world.
Remarkably few British scientists have been interviewed at length about their life and work. This project will address the situation by creating personal testimonies of scientific discovery and archiving them in the national collection.
The 200 life story recordings will be recorded to the best digital standards for preservation in perpetuity at the British Library. Each audio interview will average 10-15 hours in length, complemented by some shorter video recordings reflecting key events or locations, plus at least one group ‘witness seminar’ for each of the project’s four themed strands:
Further information about An Oral History of British Science, including the case for the project, interview methodology and projects outputs, is available in the Oral History of British Science project proposal.
Up-to-date information on the project can be found via the History of Science blog and through the National Life Stories Annual Reports, particularly the 2009/2010 report which features Introducing An Oral History of British Science, and the 2010/2011 report which features articles from the project interviewers on the Gendered cultures of science and the on-location video recordings.
Access the recordings
All interviews from An Oral History of British Science are catalogued on the Sound and Moving Image Catalogue; search using the project's collection reference number, C1379. The interviews, along with interviewee biographies, are also being catalogued on the Library’s Search our Catalogue: Archives and Manuscripts, also under the reference C1379.
Complete interviews, with no access restrictions, are available on-site at the British Library via the Listening & Viewing Service and increasingly available online via the British Library Sounds website. Updates on new interviews uploaded to British Library Sounds will be provided via the History of Science blog.
If you have any queries regarding an Oral History of British Science project please contact us at:
National Life Stories
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
Fax +44 (0)20 7412 7441
Tel +44 (0)20 7412 7404 (Elspeth Millar, Oral History Archive Assistant)