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The faces of British science: narrating lives in science since c.1945

Wainman, Ruth (2017) The faces of British science: narrating lives in science since c.1945. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.61259) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:61259)

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This thesis uses archived oral history interviews to trace the identities of scientists in narratives that capture their lived experiences of science. It draws upon fifty-four life history interviews with both men and women scientists from the British Library's 'An Oral History of British Science' (OHBS) archive. The OHBS was first established in 2009 to address the lack of comprehensive oral history archives devoted to documenting the personal experiences and memories of professionals involved in contemporary British science. In this thesis, however, the in-depth nature of these interviews are used to explore scientists' childhoods, careers and eventual retirement. This thesis therefore provides one of the first systematic attempts to draw together the personal accounts of professional scientists from a major public archive dedicated to science.

In order to situate the study of scientists' lives, two fields of research are placed under scrutiny - oral history and history of science. In doing so, this thesis traces a longer tension between the 'history from below' approach of oral history and the 'great men' foundations of history of science when the two fields were still in their infancy. The different levels of emphasis that oral historians have placed on exploring issues such as trust, empathy and subjectivity have also been accompanied by a persistent scepticism found in history and associated studies in the sociology of science. Firstly, this thesis draws upon the democratic ethos of oral history in order to reconcile the trust and suspicion surrounding scientists' accounts of their lives. Secondly, the life history methodology of the OHBS interviews, which typically documents a whole person's life, draws attention to the importance of childhood and retirement for establishing scientists' identities as they sought to construct and reconstruct their lives in science. Lastly, it concludes with the implications of adopting an oral history approach to illuminate the contingent nature of scientists' identities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Sleigh, Charlotte
Thesis advisor: Pattinson, Juliette
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.61259
Additional information: The author of this thesis has requested that it be held under closed access. We are sorry but we will not be able to give you access or pass on any requests for access.11/05/2022
Uncontrolled keywords: Oral history, history of science, scientists, identity, childhood, careers, retirement
Subjects: D History General and Old World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2017 17:00 UTC
Last Modified: 11 May 2022 10:11 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Wainman, Ruth.

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