About the project

This ‘Voices of Science’ website draws on the oral history collections at the British Library, primarily the ‘Oral History of British Science’ initiative led by National Life Stories. In 2009 the project set out to collect life story interviews, both audio and video, with those people in Britain who have spent their lives in science and technology.

‘Voices of Science’ tells the stories of some of the most remarkable scientific and engineering discoveries of the past century. Scientists talk candidly about their motivations, frustrations and triumphs, as well as their colleagues, families and childhoods. They reflect on how new instruments and techniques have changed the way they work and how fluctuations in government policy and media interest have reshaped how they spend their time.

This website presents clips from the first 100 or so recordings from the ‘Oral History of British Science’ initiative made between 2009 and 2013, covering the themes of ‘Made in Britain’ and ‘A Changing Planet’. Other recordings were made for other National Life Stories projects, including 'Inspiring Scientists: Diversity in British Science', a project in partnership with the Royal Society Diversity Programme. 'Inspiring Scientists' has recorded the life stories of British scientists with minority ethnic heritage.  Interviewees range from Professors to PhD students and the focus on science is wide, covering academia, big industry and individual entrepreneurship.

‘Voices of Science’ also provides links to the full unedited interviews and transcripts available to all worldwide at British Library Sounds. Personal biographies, photographs and links provide context for each scientist’s life and work. All the digital interviews, averaging 10-15 hours in length, have been archived in perpetuity at the British Library.

Further information about ‘An Oral History of British Science’, including the project scoping study, publications, presentations and other projects outputs, can be found under project outputs. A guide to BL history of science resources is here. The 'History of Science' blog, which documented the progress of the interview programme and the development of this website, can be accessed via the UK Web Archive.

These short videos explain:

How we interviewed scientists

How the 'Oral History of British Science’ project began 

Why we interviewed scientists about their whole lives 

How we put this website together 

Some of the challenges of interviewing scientists

What oral history tells historians of science

Why we did supplementary video interviews.

The project team

Dr Robert Perks Director of National Life Stories & Lead Curator, Oral History, The British Library 

Dr Katrina Dean Curator of the History of Science, The British Library (to 2011) 

Mary Stewart Deputy Director of National Life Stories & Curator, Oral History, The British Library 

Dr Tilly Blyth Senior Academic Consultant on secondment from the Science Museum (2009-10) 

Dr Sally Horrocks Senior Academic Consultant on secondment from the University of Leicester (2011- ) 

Dr Thomas Lean Oral History Interviewer (Made in Britain) 

Dr Paul Merchant Oral History Interviewer (A Changing Planet) 

Elspeth Millar Archivist, Oral History, The British Library

Emily Hewitt Assistant Archivist, Oral History, The British Library

Stephanie Baxter ‘Voices of Science’ Web Co-ordinator

Advisory Committee

Professor Jon Agar Professor in Science and Technology Studies, University College London 

Dr Tilly Blyth Keeper of Technologies and Engineering, Science Museum

Lord Alec Broers Emeritus Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, Chairman of Diamond Light Source Ltd and Bio-Nano Centre Ltd 

Georgina Ferry Science writer, author and broadcaster (chair) 

Professor Dame Julia Higgins Emeritus Professor of Polymer Science, Imperial College London 

Dr Maja Kominko Cultural Grants Manager for the Arcadia Fund (previously Dr Fay Bound Alberti) 

Sir Harry Kroto Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry at Florida State University, Emeritus Professor at Sussex University, co-founder of the Vega Science Trust, and Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry in 1996 

John Lynch OBE Science programme maker and writer 

Professor Chris Rapley CBE Professor of Climate Science at University College London, Fellow of St Edmund's College Cambridge, and Honorary Professor at the University of East Anglia 

Dr Simone Turchetti Research Fellow Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester


Key Funder

The Arcadia Fund

Associate Partner

The Science Museum

Funders

The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851

The Royal Society

Worshipful Company of Armourers & Brasiers

Thanks and acknowledgments

The project team would like to thank our funders and partners; all the interviewees and their families for taking part in the project; the Advisory Committee for their advice and support; the British Library’s Web Services team led by Adrian Arthur, and Metadata team led by Alan Danskin; and Eduserv.

Contact us

If you have any queries regarding the ‘Oral History of British Science’ project or this website please contact us: 

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

T +44 (0) 20 7412 7404

E oralhistory@bl.uk