Janet Thomson: an 'improper segregation of scientists' at the British Antarctic Survey

Janet Thomson remembers how she felt in the 1970s about being denied access to the Antarctic due to her gender.

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So at this time you’re reconstructing where a male geologist has been to collect samples that you’re working on, you’re hearing stories of Antarctic travel, how did you feel at that stage about the fact that you didn’t have access to Antarctica?

Pretty cross. [Laughs] I just wanted to get there and actually do, go over the same terrain myself and sort of see where this person had been and, erm, get a better feel for how the different rocks related to each other. Well I thought it was daft that, erm, somebody would – should be expected to work on samples that hadn’t been collected by that person. Because I had done geology because it was a field subject and that you needed to sort of get your hands dirty [laughs] collecting the samples and relating to the environment from which they’d been collected, and to, erm, sort of almost trying to research the geology blindfolded, not having collected them for myself. So I did find it very frustrating and illogical, really, that I should be expected to do it. And I was also cross because it was the gender issue that was sort of dawning on me [laughs] really, and I thought that was, erm, stupid too. So I wanted to go for the reason of seeing it for myself, that particular location, but also going because they shouldn’t stop me because I’m a woman. [Laughs] You know, I think that was the start of feeling that it was a rather improper segregation of, erm, of scientists because they were male or female, depended, you know, whether they could go to the Antarctic or not.

  • Interviewee Janet Thomson
  • Duration 00:02:00
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 5/27/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/20

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