Julia Slingo: combining scientific and domestic work

Julia Slingo tells story of ironing shirts in-between writing lines of computer code for a climate model while in Boulder, Colorado for husband's visiting scientist position at NCAR in 1986.

Tony had been offered a visiting scientist position at NCAR which is the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, and I was then having my - our second daughter, Anna, who was born in September 1985. So we went out in January 1986 to Boulder for a year’s visiting scientist with two small children. And I had at that time again no definite plans to work while we were out in Boulder, but they were incredibly – I suppose forward looking in a way that they recognised that working, you know, young mothers who are scientists need help to keep their careers going and so that first year and a half that we were there as – when Tony was a visiting scientist, the head of the whole division was a man called Warren Washington who was one of the great American scientists, pioneer of climate modelling and climate change prediction and so forth. He sort of encouraged me in a way to do a bit of work if I wanted to and so although I didn’t have a job per se he gave me a great slug of computing time [laughs] an account on the machine and, you know, and I could go and sit in Tony’s office if I wanted to. And they gave me a terminal at home which was linked into this – the computer at NCAR via the phone line. So I had – I could actually run some experiments and that was - Tony and I did some joint papers at that time on – on cloud radiation interaction and cloud forcing of climate. And I can still remember submitting my jobs to the supercomputer from the basement of our home via this terminal over the phone line, it was a modem system so – and it was so slow that you pressed the keys but you wouldn’t be able to see what you’d typed because the letters would come up so slowly. So I’d sit there in the evenings down in the basement and I’d type this instruction in, press return and then I’d go and iron one of Tony’s shirts and in the time it took me to iron his shirt the – the message would go through to the computer and then I could type the next line and go and iron another shirt, it was that slow. But at least, you know, I was able to run some experiments with the model.
  • Interviewee Julia Slingo
  • Duration 00:02:50
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 4/20/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/61
  • Keywords

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