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Oral History of British Science

An Oral History of British Science is a national collection of in-depth, life story audio interviews with scientists and engineers accessible to everyone interested in the recent history of science and technology in Britain.  

The programme is an initiative of National Life Stories in association with the Science Museum, and with support from the Arcadia Fund.

John Nye, Juneau icefield, Alaska, 1967

An Oral History of British Science is a national collection of interviews with over 100 leading UK scientists and engineers, telling the stories of some of the most remarkable scientific and engineering discoveries of the past century as well as the personal stories of each individual.  Remarkably few scientists have previously been interviewed at length about their life and work, and this archive remedies that absence while preserving their memories for posterity to be used by researchers now and in the future.  


Interviews, which last 10-15 hours, have been recorded under the project strands Made in Britain and A Changing Planet, and range across a variety of disciplines, which already include aeronautical and civil engineering, atmospheric and climate change science, computer hardware and software, electronics, geology, geophysics, glaciology, instrumentation, materials, meteorology, molecular biology and oceanography.  A number of shorter, on-location video interviews have also been filmed.


Further information about An Oral History of British Science, including the case for the programme, interview methodology and outputs, is available in the Oral History of British Science project proposal.


Up-to-date information on the project can be found through the National Life Stories Annual Reports.


Access the recordings

Interviews are catalogued on the Sound & Moving Image Catalogue (using the collection reference C1379) and can be accessed onsite at the British Library through the Listening & Viewing Service subject to any restrictions agreed with interviewees.   Over 1000 hours of unedited interviews are being 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.  It also provides links to the full unedited interviews and transcripts available to all worldwide via BL Sounds.  Personal biographies, photographs and links to other resources provide context for each scientist’s life and work. 


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

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