Further audio visual resources

The British Library is home to a number of donated oral history collections concentrating on science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM). Collections range from interviews with distinguished physicists, chemists and biologists, to those involved in the design of groundbreaking technological innovations.

Full holdings can be discovered by searching the Sound & Moving Image catalogue and recordings can then be accessed via the Listening & Viewing Service; an increasing number of interviews are available via British Library Sounds.


  • The Fellows of the Royal Society interviews (catalogue no: C864) comprises video interviews with Lord George Porter of Luddenham (British chemist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1967); Sir Francis Graham-Smith (Astronomer Royal 1982 - 1990); Professor Nicholas Kurti, (physicist at Oxford who worked atomic bomb project between 1940-1945), and The Reverend Dr John Polkinghorne (theologian, mathematician and physicist).
  • The Science Museum Cable Company interviews (catalogue no: C386) is collection of three interviews with those involved in the cable service industry which was carried out to provide background material for the telecommunications gallery at the Science Museum.
  • Calvin Laboratory Interviews, 1945 – 1963 (catalogue no: C1017) is a collection of interviews recorded with Melvin Calvin and scientists who worked with him in the Bio-Organic Chemistry Group which he set up in 1945, in order to discover the path of carbon in photosynthesis. Calvin was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1961 for this work. This oral history project was set up in the late 1990s by Professor Vivian Moses who was a postdoctoral student with the Calvin group during the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Edinburgh University Science Studies Unit, 1969 – 1971: Distinguished British Scientists (catalogue no: C1270) is a collection of eight interviews with distinguished British scientists, recorded for the Science Studies Unit, University of Edinburgh, between 1969 and 1971, including Sir Lawrence Bragg and Sir Bernard Lovell.
  • Edinburgh University Science Studies Unit, 1969 – 1971: Institute of Animal Genetics (catalogue no: C1271) is a collection of eleven interviews with members of staff of the Institute of Animal Genetics, University of Edinburgh, recorded for the Science Studies Unit, University of Edinburgh, between 1969 and 1971.
  • Cotgrove Industrial Scientists (Qualidata) (catalogue no: C817) is a collection of eleven interviews with research scientists, particularly in the field of chemistry.
  • Royal Society of Chemistry interviews (catalogue no: C454) is a collection of interviews with Professors Dorothy Hodgkin, George Porter and Harry Julius Emeleus about their lives and work, recorded by Moira Donnelly of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • The BBC World Service 'Discovery' tapes (catalogue no: C540) is a collection of over 360 open reels of 'insert' tapes recorded for the BBC World Service Discovery programme between 1971 and 1981.  There are around 700 individual interviews within the collection, covering subjects within natural science, applied science, physical science and cognitive science.
  • Interviews with physicist Brian Flowers and molecular biologist Maurice Wilkins are included in the National Life Stories project, Leaders of National Life (catalogue no: C408).
  • Interviews with chemist Aaron Klug, physicist Joseph Rotblat, molecular biologist Max Perutz, and biologist Zhores Medvedev are included in the National Life Story Collection: General Interviews (catalogue no: C464).


  • Lives in the Oil Industry (catalogue no: C963) a joint National Life Stories and University of Aberdeen project, documents the origins and evolution of the UK North Sea oil and gas industry through the life histories of people who have worked in or alongside it.  The collection includes a number of people who have trained and worked in a variety of scientific fields, but especially, geology, surveying, engineering.
  • Lives in Steel (catalogue no: C532) a National Life Stories project was the first national oral history of the steel industry. In their own words, steelworkers discuss the skills, hazards and complexity of producing steel, with interviewees drawn from a broad spectrum of occupations within the steel industry.  The collection includes interviews with metallurgists, chemists, engineers, draughtsmen, designers and much on technical education for industry. The interviews recorded for Lives in Steel can be accessed online at British Library Sounds.
  • An Oral History of the Water Industry (catalogue no: C1364) aims to track the many structural, technological and commercial changes that have taken place within living memory through the life stories of a wide range of people who have experience of working at all levels of the industry. The interviews touch on technical training and a variety of scientific, technical aspects of water management.
  • An Oral History of the Electricity Supply Industry in the UK (catalogue no: C1495) will contribute to National Life Stories' documentation of the utilities in the UK, by collecting the memories and experiences of those who worked in the industry at various levels and exploring themes such as nationalisation in the 1940s, privatisation in 1990-5, the increase in scale of coal-fired power stations, the shift to gas during the 1990s and the development of renewable energy sources since the 1970s.


  • Oral History of Recorded Sound (catalogue no: C90) is a collection of 111 interviews with people involved in all areas of the recording industry: artists, engineers, managers, technicians, legal experts, teachers, producers, musicians, record company personnel, wildlife recordists, writers and journalists. Interviewees include David Attenborough on wildlife recordings; Christopher Bishop on producing EMI's first LP 'Men of Brass'; James Blades, former Professor of Percussion at the Royal Academy on his recording of 'Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra'; Charlie Gillett on Oval Records; Sir Charles Groves; Roy Henderson on working with Kathleen Ferrier; Joe Loss, dance band leader; Dame Vera Lynn; Humphrey Lyttleton; Ewan MacColl; Sir Neville Marriner; George Martin on The Beatles; Sir Yehudi Menuhin; Cavan O'Connor; Maurice Oberstein of Polygram; Dame Eva Turner; and Sir David Willcocks of the Royal College of Music. Selected interviews from this collection are available for higher education use on the British Library Sounds website
  • Herbert Smart's history of printing processes (catalogue no: C264) is a collection of self-recorded talks by Herbert Smart about printing production techniques, in particular electrotyping and stereotyping. The collections covers: nickeloid, the impact of the Second World War, Eyre and Spottiswoode, Dalziel process, London College of Printing, newspaper production (including the Daily Telegraph), Overseers Association, laminated plates, litho.
  • The Kenneth Owen Concorde interviews (catalogue no: C1153) is a collection of interviews with people involved in the design, building and operation of the Concorde supersonic airliner, recorded in three sequences in 1979, 1992-4 and 2001, with a number of other items relating to the history and future of supersonic passenger transport recorded between 1979 and 1991.
  • The Rodney Giesler Oral History Interviews (catalogue no: C599) comprises of interviews with test pilots for Hawker Aircraft, Westland Aircraft, Supermarine and Concorde. The collection also includes interviews with airline pilots, as well as flight deck recordings and assorted sound effects.
Medical science and health professionals
  • The Common Cold Unit recordings (catalogue no: C1038) comprise 34 recordings conducted between 1994 and 1997 by Dr David Tyrrell who was Director of the Common Cold Unit between 1982 and 1990. The interviews record the memories of those who worked at the Common Cold Unit during its lifespan from 1946 to1990, and include the testimonies of office workers, laboratory technicians, bacteriologists, microbiologists, dermatologists and virologists.
  • The Wellcome Trust Oral History of General Practice 1935-52 (catalogue no: C648) is a series of life story/career interviews carried out by Michael Bevan for a Wellcome Trust-funded project based at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at Oxford University between 1992 and 1994.
  • Oral History of Geriatrics as a Medical Speciality (catalogue no: C512) is a collection comprised of 73 interviews carried out by Margot Jefferys and colleagues with geriatricians discussing the evolution of geriatric medicine as a medical specialty after the Second World War.
  • The Overseas Trained South Asian Geriatricians interviews (catalogue no: C1356) is a collection comprising the interviews from an ESRC funded research project 'Overseas Trained South Asian Doctors and the Development of Geriatric Medicine', which interviewed working and retired South Asian geriatricians in order to explore their experiences and contribution to the development of the care of older people in the UK. The research project reanalysed the 'Oral History of Geriatrics as a Medical Speciality' collection (see above).
  • Wellcome Trust History of Medicine Course Oral History interviews (catalogue no: C646) contain interviews conducted by those attending Wellcome Trust courses on oral history and the history medicine since 1990.
  • An interview with leukaemia specialist George McDonald is included in National Life Story Collection: General Interviews (catalogue no: C464). An interview with obstetrician and gynaecologist Josephine Barnes is included in the Leaders of National Life (C408).
  • The Andy Stevens Psychiatric Nursing Interviews (catalogue no: C823) were recorded as part of a doctorate focussing on an Essex psychiatric hospital, Essex Hall/Turner Village. Most interviewees are former employees (mainly nurses but also a psychiatrist), the oldest born in 1906.
  • Royal College of Nursing History Group interviews (catalogue no: C545) is a collection of 35 interviews with nurses from World War One onwards talking about their nursing careers and experiences.
  • The Hallam Nursing interviews (catalogue no: C768) document the arrival of women that came from Barbados to Britain to train as nurses in the 1950s.
  • The Kay Foster Gulf War recordings (catalogue no: C752) are the audio diaries of a major in the Royal Army Nursing Corps serving in the Gulf War 1990-1.
  • Two collections conducted by Stuart Anderson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine focus on pharmacy: an Oral History of Hospital Pharmacy (catalogue no: C917) is a series of 50 interviews with community pharmacists and chemists, whilst an Oral History of Community Pharmacy (catalogue no: C816) comprises 50 interviews with community pharmacists and chemists.
  • Other pharmacy collections include the John Hunt pharmacists interviews (catalogue no: C989), a collection of 13 interviews made with doctors, patients and pharmacists, conducted by John Hunt, archive interviewer for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
  • Pioneers of Child Psychotherapy Recordings (catalogue no: C1560) is a collection comprised of 22 interviews with founding members of the child psychotherapy movement in post–war Britain. Interviews for the project were carried out between 2000-2003 by Professor Michael Roper and Dr Andrew Briggs. The recordings document the development of child psychotherapy training and practice in the 1950s and 1960s. Principal subjects include: training and training-schools, the Tavistock Clinic and Anna Freud Institute; relations between Kleinians and Freudians; institutional development in Child Psychotherapy, the establishment of the Association  of Child Psychotherapy; clinical techniques; NHS and widening public access to psychotherapy.
  • An Oral History of Talking Therapists in the UK (catalogue no: C1553) is a collection of six life story interviews with key figures in the world of talking therapies. The interviews explored both the personal biographies of the interviewees and a wide range of themes including training, the day-to-day processes of therapeutic practice, ethical issues in the sector, the differences between NHS and private practice, and the future of the talking therapies.  A future project will aim to interview a wide range of professionals who do not use pharmaceutical or other medical forms of intervention to alleviate mental distress but depend on verbal exchanges between client and therapist.
  • Interviews with psychiatrists are included in the Wellcome Trust Course Oral History Interviews (catalogue no: C646) collection and the Andy Stevens Psychiatric Nursing Interviews (catalogue no: C823)
  • An interview with Anthony Storr, English psychiatrist and author, is also included in the Leaders of National Life (C408) collection.
  • Interviews relating to psychiatry can also be found in the Mental Health Testimony Archive (catalogue no: C905).