Richard West: dissection classes with Charles Singer

Richard West tells story of dissection classes with Charles Singer in his private laboratory in Par, Cornwall, in the early 1940s.

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My father evacuated the family to South Devon. And this – this must have happened in 1940, in summer 1940. And I went – I was sent to school at the King’s School, Canterbury, which was evacuated to Cornwall and occupied the Carlyon Bay Hotel. Nearby, at Par, a place called Par, on the Cornish coast, lived in a large old Cornish house, Charles Singer, historian of science, who was at Oxford and London. I think he was closely connected with the Wellcome Museum of History of Science. And he offered to teach biology to certain pupils who were willing to be taught by him in his house at Kilmarth, an amazing old Cornish house on the cliffs. And so every week we went over by an antiquated bus to Charles Singer’s house. It was really good to get there. And [laughs] he used to have a little laboratory there where he taught. And he had a kind of general handyman there, and we as schools boys never used to – never understood whether this handyman was male or female and this greatly intrigued us, of course. And we used to call her the hermaphrodite in our biological readings [laughs]. And she – she was a general – or he, whatever, in the house. Anyway, he taught us. We dissected things there. And it was like – it was – he was a very nice chap, Charles Singer. He was really – quite a good sense of humour and quite a good teacher, of course, and he knew – he was writing books at the time. And he had this amazing study in this house, which was warmed by a log fire overlooking the sea. And he had – in this library was the entire run of the Phil' Trans' [Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society], back to 16 something [laughs], all leather bound and everything. And they were memorable occasions.
  • Interviewee Richard West
  • Duration 00:02:57
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 10/18/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/34
  • Keywords

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