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Life story audio interviews with scientists and engineers
An Oral History of British Science (collection number: C1379) 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, Royal Society, 1851 Royal Commission, and Templeton Religious Trust. Over one hundred interviews are now available online at British Library Sounds.
Initiated in 2009, 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. Before this project few British scientists had been interviewed at length about their life and work. The collection includes a set of recordings with ethnic minority British scientists conducted for a collaborative project with the Royal Society, Inspiring Scientists: Diversity in British Science. These are available here and an STEM teaching resource using the material is here.
National Life Stories is a partner in the Science and Religion: exploring the spectrum project, funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, with researchers involved based at Newman University, York University (Canada), the University of Kent and NLS. The 30 life stories recorded by NLS are with scientists, theologians, philosophers, journalists, film-makers and others who have contributed to public debates on relations between science and religion, and are catalogued in the collection Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum Life Story Interviews, (collection number: C1672) and many are now available in full at British Library Sounds.
This programme of life stories preserves the memories of the interviewees for use by researchers of all kinds, now and in the future. Interviews, typically lasting 10-15 hours, range across a great variety of fields, from aeronautical engineering and computer science, to climate change, materials and physics. Interviewees range from Nobel Prize winners to lab technicians, computer programmers to field scientists, and design engineers to oceanographers, from a range of different social, educational, religious and ethnic backgrounds. The collection also includes a number of shorter, on-location video interviews.
Further information on the background to the project and its methodology can be found on Voices of Science, alongside biographies and extracts from interviews. A more detailed guide to the collection can be found on the oral histories of science and technology page.
Access the recordings
- The Voices of Science web resource offers highlights from the interviews, with photographs, videos, personal biographies, and links to the full interviews and transcripts.
- Over 1000 hours of audio interviews are available in full on the British Library’s Sounds website.
- Video interviews are available on National Life Stories You Tube Channel.
Read more about the programme via An Oral History of British Science project proposal and a list of UK oral history of science collections and projects. There are also several articles in the National Life Stories Annual Reviews: Introducing An Oral History of British Science; Gendered cultures of science; Video oral history; Part of the Scientist’s Toolkit and Moving and being: the life stories of ethnic minority British scientists.
An Oral History of British Science Advisory Committee
Professor Jon Agar
Dr Tilly Blyth
Lord Alec Broers
Georgina Ferry (chair)
Professor Dame Julia Higgins
Dr Maja Kominko
John Lynch OBE
Professor Chris Rapley CBE
Dr Simone Turchetti
National Life Stories gratefully acknowledges the support of the following funders for An Oral History of British Science
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
Tel +44 (0)20 7412 7404