Diversity and science
British scientists are more diverse - in terms of ethnic and social background and in levels of ‘disability’ – than a quick look might suggest. Many scientists who led developments in British science in the second half of the twentieth century were born outside of Britain. An Oral History of British Science (OHBS) includes interviews with scientists who emigrated from parts of Europe to the Britain, from the 1930s onwards, including those escaping anti-Semitic persecution and violence in Nazi Germany and interviews conducted in collaboration between OHBS and the Royal Society’s ‘diversity programme’ include scientists who were born, or whose parents or grandparents were born, in parts of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Leaving aside ethnicity as a key axis of diversity, a number of interviewees across the collection describechildhoods involving significant material poverty and a family and social environment in which very few people expected to go to university. Others talk in some detail about physical disabilities that have affected their lives, and in some cases influenced the direction of their scientific work.
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