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Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood interviewed by Thomas Lean

Wood, Martin, 1927- (speaker, male; interviewee)
2011-11-21, 2012-01-16, 2012-02-14, 2012-03-21

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  • Title:
    Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood interviewed by Thomas Lean
  • Contributor: Wood, Martin, 1927-; Wood, Audrey; Lean, Thomas
  • Other Titles:
    Collection title: An Oral History of British Science

  • Description:
    Track 1 [53:54] [21 November 2011] Remarks about MW's plans for life after school: talking to teacher about choice between a physicist or engineer, deciding to become an engineer to avoid maths; choosing to study engineering at Cambridge; story about visiting recruiting office at Thame, near Great Milton, and choosing to become a miner. [05:20] Comments on mining in Wales: choosing to go to the South Wales coal field; elements of mining training; conditions and old fashioned nature of Welsh mine; description of working on the coal face; [10:02] conditions underground; pit ponies and working with tools. [14:15] Comments on working in later mine in Derbyshire: mechanisation methods making work quite easy; description of using a coal cutter; description of working in mine; MW feelings about mining. [19:20] Remarks on: relationship with other miners, laughed at but respected; fossilised tree trunks in mine roof. [20:04] Remarks on AW's time at Cambridge: studying Natural Science Tripos part one, botany, zoology, biochemistry and organic chemistry; decision to marry first husband leading to her studying English Literature instead; Leavis style of literary criticism being valuable for running a company; reasons for choosing to study natural science initially, not wanting to follow sisters into medicine, influence of teacher. [23:00] MW & AW remarks on teachers at school: AW teacher Joan Kemp; teachers interested in subject and enthused pupils. [24:10] Remarks on AW: enjoying evolutionary biology and biochemistry; high proportion of men at Cambridge; many opportunities to go out; long vacation term; MW remarks on AW's analytical style of writing; anecdote about AW over-analysing poem for a tutor; change in between sciences and English; [27:45] AW helping MW write difficult letters; different enjoyments and teaching in English and science courses; attending Girton College; lunches at Girton waiting rooms in Cambridge centre; [31:00] full social life at Cambridge, many male students after war; National Milk Cocoa and effects of rationing. [32:20] MW Remarks on extra rations for miners making them popular lodgers. [34:15] AW remarks on: decision to change from science to English, fiancé studying Zoology, wanted a wider education; treating Cambridge as a wide education, considering she might become a teacher; meeting fiancé Andrew Buxton on science course; choice of English literature; tutors Miss Bradbrook and Peggy Brown/Varney, who AW kept in touch with; tutorials with Peggy Brown; AW acting with the mummers, playing hockey and swimming for Cambridge. [39:00] Comments on life in Uganda: husband Andrew Buxton a mammalogist at Virus Research Institute in Entebbe; birth of first child Robin; problems at Virus Research Institute, change in employment from Uganda Government to East African Community; husband offered university lectureship in Kampala; death of husband from Poliomyelitis, son Robin's illness from Polio; daughter Sarah. [42:10] Remarks on return to England: AW sister paediatrician; Robin's rehabilitation and exercising; AW and children living with in-laws at Gerrards Cross. [45:10] Story about AW meeting MW, a family friend, through his help in making a better set of callipers for Robin; description of callipers, made by MW at Royal School of Mines workshops. [48:30] AW remarks on living in Uganda 1950-52: formal lunches at Government House; long flight out to Uganda by Sunderland flying boat; colonial club; Virus Research Institute outside town with own community; servants; limited interaction with local community; feelings about life in Uganda, busy with children, loving Africa.


    Track 2 [59:54] Remarks on progression of MW's mining career: 2 1/2 years in Wales followed by period on Derbyshire after repeal of control of engagement order 1947; miserable conditions at mechanised mine in Derbyshire; demobilisation; Bevin boys generally not liking mining as much as MW; physical therapist Philip Gamble treating MW after mining shifts; [04:15 pause] MW obtaining Coal Board scholarship for Cambridge and Royal School of Mines before returning to mining; MW disillusionment with poor running of mines; eventual move to physics department at Oxford. [05:30] Remarks on MW disillusionment mining: poor management and staff relations in mines; degradation in management on nationalisation; lack of management training; run down of mining industry; learning much but glad to leave. [09:15] Remarks on MW time at Cambridge: complications in studying engineering leading him to initially study natural sciences; lack of family knowledge of science; difficulties with some parts of natural sciences but enjoying geology; change to studying pass degree in engineering suiting him well; wide content of engineering degree, including management; course mates tending to be sons of established engineers; MW enjoying drawing and geology aspects of course. [13:10] Further remarks on MW engineering drawing: anecdote about career testing of young MW highlighting his abilities in the mental manipulation of shapes; MRI machine drawings; value of skills in building work at home. [16:30] Remarks on start of Oxford Instruments: MW designing equipment, AW doing admin; MW anecdote about value of AW's skills to start of business; AW and MW's scientific background, value of AW's English skills. [18:30] Remarks on: value of university experience, AW analytical skills, MW technical knowledge; MW hard work in Cambridge but not enjoying Natural Science's; MW social life and good friends Martin Dent and Martin Brunt; family connection to Buxton family by marriage. [21:40] Remarks on MW interest in forestry: maintaining school forest; parent's wood in Kent; story about purchase of a wood, then their current home nearby; start of Sylva foundation. [25:40] Remarks on: MW interests in Cambridge, not considering himself a social person at the time; very interested in engineering work, particularly mechanical. [27:30] Story about MW's start at Clarendon Lab at Oxford: MW offered a job by Alexander Thom; taking on of teaching responsibilities; MW work for Nicholas Kurti in physics department making equipment; anecdote about Kurti's helpful reaction when MW proposed to launch a company; MW designing magnets for students; MW deciding to launch a company. [32:30] Story about MW's early bad experience in working in a factory as a youth during war, when he was unrewarded for increasing production, MW feelings about poorly run industry. [37:00]


    Track 2 [cont' from 37:00] Remarks on: dangers in mining; story about MW's narrow escape from an explosives accident in Welsh mine; miner's blue scars. [43:45] Remarks about Royal School of Mines: MW's hope to reform running of mines; run down of coal industry in UK compared to around the world; MW's studies at Royal School fo Mines, engineering, drawing, mine planning; practical elements to course and visits to mines. [47:00] Remarks on: AW and MW first meeting; MW interest in Church brass rubbing; AW and MW meeting through Buxton family connections rather than overlapping in Cambridge; MW and AW's early relationship, reasons for attraction; anecdote about MW girlfriend Lucy Buxton marrying AW boyfriend Geoffrey Chandler; AW and MW 1955 marriage in Whaley Bridge; restrictions on life in 1950s, such foreign currency limits. [53:25] Description of MW and AW and life after marriage: caring for children; MW's digs in Ashby-de-la-Zouch with dwarf physiotherapist, who moved into his chicken house to allow MW and AW the use of his house, before his own marriage; anecdote about moving house; MW and AW home life and MW's long mining hours; MW hard decision to leave pits after education.


    Track 3 [00:29] Sound check accessioned in error


    Track 4 [1:37:11][Interview Three: 16 January 2012] Remarks on Sylva Foundation for forestry: hopes for widespread influence, growing organisation, apprentice schemes, online wood registration through myForest; MW's long running interest in forestry, anecdote about doing forestry instead of joining army training corps at school; forestry and engineering. [07:25] Comments on MW activities at Clarendon Laboratory: designing electromagnets; tutoring students; working as engineering making and running high magnetic field equipment; anecdote about interview; limited knowledge of magnetism before starting job; history of magnets, Michael Faraday and Royal Institution. [12:15] Description of electromagnets: how electromagnets work; water cooled electromagnets at Oxford designed by MW, process of building electromagnets; history of magnets, lodestone. [22:20] Remarks on Clarendon: escaped Jews from Germany, Sir Francis Simon, Kurt Mendelssohn, Hungarian Nicholas Kurti; background of Prof Frederick Lindemann, Lord Cherwell, rescuing Jews from Germany pre-war, as covered in 'Hitler's Gift' book; Nicholas Kurti's escape from Hungry to Weimar Germany. [28:10] Remarks on: escaped Jews rarely talking about German experience, with reference to Lord Krebs; description of Nicholas Kurti, story about his escape from Germany, via Breslau, now Wroclaw in Poland; German Jew's work on separating Uranium in wartime. [34:35] Anecdote about foundation of Clarendon Laboratory as a result of Lord Clarendon's bequest for a school of School of Equitation. [37:55] Remarks on Clarendon Laboratory: working in night; importance and ease of working with escaped German Jews; excitement of working at Clarendon with top scientists; MW designing equipment; Joe Milligan, head of low temperature workshops, who later worked for Oxford Instruments; MW making equipment for other universities eventually growing into Oxford Instruments; [42:00] AW helping MW with experiments at night; anecdote about generator using 10% of Oxford's power supply; details of MW's work in Clarendon; Professor Simon's search for extreme magnetic field, high pressure and cold environment for experiments; blue sky academic pursuits of researchers; [47:35] MW enjoying working with colleagues, achievements in making new type of magnet and pushing technology; visitors to Oxford becoming MW's future customers; knowledge is free approach. [49:10] Remarks on: MW's new type of higher power magnet; dangers in laboratory; anecdote about hydrogen explosion before MW arrived at Clarendon; AW's involvement with MW's work; anecdote about MW working at home, working conditions in laboratory. [53:40] Comments on start of Oxford Instruments [OI] in 1959: MW asking Nicholas Kurti's permission to branch out; story about MW consultancy work for Hillman cars on magnetic clutch; other early consultancy work before first big order for Royal Radar Establishment Malvern; previous defunct company named Oxford Instruments; importance of Oxford in name of company, looking up to Cambridge Instrument's company; [1:00:00] initial hopes for company; importance of superconductor break through to growth of company; anecdote about low power needed for superconductor magnets, MW using car battery for testing first superconductor magnet, high cost of materials; magnetism remaining as long as temperature remains cold; need for liquid helium to keep superconducting magnets low; rapid development of company in superconductor magnets; problems with supply of helium leading to purchase of helium liquefier and launch of Oxford Cryogenics, leading to competition with British Oxygen Company; liquid helium not needed today. [1:06:30]


    Track 4: [cont from' 1:06:30] Remarks on: finance, bank lending money on security of equipment, such as liquefier; limited understanding but much interest from Drummonds Bank, where MW's family were established customers; mortgaging house for company finance; feelings at start of company, optimism, busy; [1:10:30] MW continuing working at the Clarendon Laboratory; support to OI from Clarendon; negative connotations of industry in universities, anecdote about MW colleague describing him as applied physicist rather than engineer; MW well treated in Clarendon. [pause 1:13:15] Story about Oxford's University problems in 1930s with Mr Owen's entrepreneurial efforts, leading to a wariness of spin off companies. [1:15:30] Remarks on: OI growing to meet a need from people wanting equipment; views that employees should be involved in company; AW finding starting company great fun, helping with admin; balancing family life with working on OI from study in house; company based in house and shed in garden at first; anecdote about having to disguise industry at the bottom of the garden; Joe Milligan's inventiveness; description of garden shed made of a half prefab house; AW managing OI's administration and learning about magnets; displaying first superconducting magnet in 1962. [1:21:10] Remarks on: magnet winding machines; description of magnets and water cooling tanks needed; fishing wire used to separate magnet layers and provide space for cooling water; making the first superconducting magnet in Europe. [1:25:40] Description of making first superconductor electromagnet, first switching it on, difficulties. [1:32:30] Story about origins of Wah Chang Corporation's super-conductive Zirconium wire production. Remarks on: luck at start of company, article in New Scientist, problems with second batch of wire; types of wire; use of first magnet for research; Clarendon's research funding.


    Track 5 [52:02] Comments on growth of Oxford Instruments: Article in New Scientist in April 1962 bringing inquires and orders for superconducting magnets; over-trading and funding; move in 1965 to new buildings in Summertown in Oxford, taking on staff, anecdote about working with technician Joe Milligan, employee John Rackstraw, from Harwell, Vernon Brook from Clarendon, Frank Thornton who later became their first MD; anecdote about difficulties keeping store records; anecdote about forgetting to register under the Factories Act, well informed and helpful official. [06:10] Description of first premises, a former stable and slaughter house. [09:10] Remarks on: AW and MW activities in workshops; anecdote about ladies toilet facilities; MW working at university and designing magnets; employees building magnets, John Rackstraw and Vernon Brook; useful location of site near university; MW writing literature and doing marketing to all the physics departments in the world; importance of world of mouth connections and New Scientist article. [12:20] Remarks on company involvement with superconducting magnets: earlier activities with high power magnets; superconducting magnets increasing size of market; story about visiting USA for 1961 MIT conference where they realised that superconductors were the future of magnets, deciding on New York subway that they go into superconductor magnets. [15:15] Remarks on recruiting staff: informal contacts with Harwell; anecdote about Harwell's light-hearted criticism at OI taking their former apprentices; . [16:35] Description of typical handling of a magnet customer and procedure for filling their order c1965, difficulties making new equipment. [18:00] Remarks on: difficulties standardising equipment; ease of standardising for nuclear magnetic resonance magnets; story about contract with Harwell for developing Helium-3 and Helium-4 dilution refrigerators with Heinz London, OI winning competition between Philips of Eindhoven and a firm in Boston []; problems caused by 1960s superconductor famine, value of Harwell development contract and cryogenic equipment orders; niobium titanium superconductor developed by Imperial Metal Industries [IMI]; funding difficulties. [23:00] Comments about previous managing director leaving to launch a rival firm, Thor Cryogenics: importance of new MD Barrie Marson to survival and growth of OI; staff leaving OI for Thor; Thor's underestimating of difficulty running a high-tech business, worries for OI; discontented OI staff leaving for Thor, leaving a remaining staff to redouble their efforts. [27:20] Remarks on: early employees: ex-Harwell apprentice, who died in motorbike accident and Eric Gilbert, who had a line to the Culham computer; anecdote about MW using Oxford University computer, MW uses for computer in designing an electromagnet, importance of computers. [32:20] Remarks on: Martin leaving University in 1969, to do more selling; AW doing writing for company; winning Queen's award in 1968 for dilution refrigerator and a hundred 10 Tesla superconducting magnets; advantages of being first and being located in Oxford; importance of winning Queen's award for small company, credibility; MW reasons for leaving Clarendon as work had become less interesting, growing company needing MW more; MW working in Japan for university; company contacts with university, OI initially seen as an offshoot of university; German 'Very Cold' company later asking to be taken over by OI rather than a competitor. [40:10] Remarks on: MD and Nick Kerley and others defecting to new company; busy and friendly atmosphere at OI; staff shareholdings, wanting people to feel part of company; never thinking about themselves as capitalists but wanting to be the best and succeed; various degree of ongoing relations with customers after equipment sold, decreasing as equipment becomes easier to use and standardised; . [46:05] Description of OI c1970: struggling after defection of MD; MW and AW very active roles running company; supportive remaining staff; negative comments about OI by defecting staff; OI later recruiting ex-Thor staff; MW and AW strained by defections; Thor use of OI drawings, legal involvement; Thor adopting ever more desperate measures.


    Track 6 [1:00:19][Interview Four: 14 February 2012] Remarks on business in 1970s: departure of MD and some staff; MW taking over running remaining loyal staff; AW discussions with tax people over corporation tax, cash-flow problems; value of business and personal partnership, AW role sorting finances and legal issues; MW organising productive side; overmanning in 1970; story about being approached by staff scientist John Williams with idea to run company; support of solicitor and accountant family members; decision not to take Thor to court; [06:00] Comments on: growth of company under Frank Thornton, value of superconductivity, growing too fast on overdraft; problems caused by superconductor famine of 1960s, ended by Imperial Metal Industries [IMI] supply of new superconductor niobium titanium. [09:20] Comments on investment from 3I, Investors In Industry: 3I history as Technical Development Capital [TDC] until take over by Industrial Commercial Finance Corporation [ICFC]; Macmillan funding gap; quality of long term 3I support, eventual long term pay off; family contacts to ICFC; meeting with ICFC, good treatment. [13:30] Story about changing banks to Midland at shorting notice to avoid bankruptcy, difficult bankers. [16:30] Remarks on: ways of convincing financiers, conductivity changing the world; over-trading and cash-flow problems; dealings with Air Products company, who they sold Oxford Cryogenics liquid helium company; Will Penfold, brother-in-law and accountant; discussion with Air Products boss Leonard Pool over selling OI in 1960s; differences in English and American English causing break in negotiations; value of ICFC support, including individuals such as David Ellis and John Bevan [23:20]. Remarks on: small size of initial board; later MD Barry Marsden, formerly of Kent Instruments; value of Marsden to business; purchase of Oxford Electronics, who produced medical monitoring cassette recorders; value of medical recorders to survival in difficult period in 1970s; [27:45] links to Medical Research Council through Charles Fletcher and others; origins of medical tape recorder. [30:40]


    Track 6: [cont' from 30:40] Remarks on: difficulties caused by three-day working week, anecdote about occasionally putting electricity on illicitly; lack of discontent in company; slow in superconductor magnet sales caused by poor university funding; Helium 3 dilution refrigerator business. [33:20] Remarks on sales overseas: value of MW work for Nicholas Kurti at Oxford in providing links and customers, international nature of Clarendon lab; meeting people at conferences; practice of selling superconductor magnets; Thor competition; value of MW experience in Clarendon in building trust. [36:50] Remarks on 1969 sabbatical leave: leaving Frank Thornton in charge; visit to conference in Novorossiysk; visit to Japan to chose agent; [38:14] story about a Japanese company's [closed section 00:38:15 - 00:38:24] clumsy attempt at industrial espionage at a meeting ; selecting their existing sellers as agent; value of scientific attaché's language skills; Japanese professor suggesting they stay at International House of Japan; Historic background of American occupation force handing former Mitsui land for International House. [42:05] Comments on time behind the iron curtain in the 1970s: Poland, Russia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia; MW and AW visits abroad whilst Barry Marsden became MD; academic contacts made at Oxford; need for invitation to travel in Eastern Europe; anecdote about difficulties entering Russia to visit Professor Verkin at Karkov; anecdote about difficulties staying sober in Russia; Austin A40 and Transit vans used on trips to exhibitions; creating company literature from Letraset as needed; sales successes, exhibition at Lebedev Institute in Moscow; [46:50] limited sales of trips; enthusiasm and welcoming nature of Russian scientists; anecdote about toasting sales negotiations with vodka from laboratory beakers; enjoyment of trips; impressions of science in USSR, such as in Karkhov, slow speed of development, cut off; organisations buying equipment on stands; payment in petrol at Breslau in Poland; taking family on Trans-Siberian railway; anecdote about brandy being aged in a reactor in Tbilisi. [53:10] Remarks on: family, 4 children, death of daughter; friendly reactions to children in Russia; story about MW being arrested for taking photos on a flight from Tashkent to Novorossiysk; anecdote about Soviet Generals, disguised by pyjamas for journey on Trans-Siberian railway, instructing them to take illicit photos; [57:40] subsequent visit to Japan; MW sabbatical at Monash University Melbourne on Helium refrigerators, link through Clarendon contact; return via USA.


    Track 7 [1:00:06] Remarks on: OI pricing, Barry Marsden changing prices, undercharging initially; never wanting to sell company, faith that OI would become great; 1973 purchase of British Oxygen superconducting magnet division; story about takeover of Newport Instruments [NI] on friendly terms; share arrangements meaning that AW and MW no longer OI majority shareholders and glad to share company and responsibility; AW trying to keep outside shareholders in balance; Newport Instruments' Martin Boswell's share arrangements and trust in AW and MW; [06:30] anecdote about Newport Instruments' 3 classes of canteen; egalitarian nature of company, use of first names; further details about Newport Instrument [NI], use of magnets, caravan division which built mobile law court for Arab prince; NI owner trusting OI to look after company; desktop NMR machine. [10:55] Remarks on: new products in physiological monitoring; recent OI advances in nanotechnology; takeover of Plasma technology Limited and Link. [12:28] Comments on Nuclear magnetic resonance [NMR]: role of Rex Richardson; use of NMR to model molecules; resonance of atoms in magnetic fields allowing analysis; methods of imaging body by mapping hydrogen atoms; need for high magnetic field; Oxford professor Rex Richardson using NMR for research and realising, with Nottingham university that it could be used in imaging; early NMR images; use of NMR in chemical analysis; OI building systems for Rex Richardson; OI building magnet part of instrument but not spectrometer, which were built by Bruker, Varian and Nikolai; Bruker's Günther Laukien's tactics to buy OI during 1970s; anecdote about Gunther Laukien's bullying attitude during a meeting with MW in 1970s; German Very-cold company asking to be taken over by OI rather than Bruker. [22:20] Remarks on: Sir Peter Mansfield and Paul Lauterbur's Nobel Prize for MRI machines; OI making magnets used in experiments by Mansfield; OI involvement with Peter Mansfield's experiments. [24:00] Remarks on photos of early MRI machines: anecdote about Geneva MRI machine being disrupted by electric trams; description of early MRI machines, using superconducting magnet; OI producing first whole body superconducting magnet, working with Professor in Aberdeen; description of complete MRI machines; OI recent development of nano-computer environments. [29:35] Further remarks on MRI: feelings about OI role in MRI; change of name from NMR to remove word nuclear; use of MRI magnet to separate ores used in paper making. [32:10]


    Track 7[cont' from 32:10] Remarks on: MW doing less design work in 1970s. [33:00] Story about problems with Grenoble magnet: lack of insurance; supply for faulty design data from famous French scientist; problems with magnet, not seen by OI but caused by French data; design of magnet to resist lightning strikes at Grenoble; settlement between OI and Grenoble and subsequent tightening up of OI contracts. [38:55] Remarks on: importance of recurring customers; anecdote about a sculptor friend delivering a magnet personally to Professor Néel at Grenoble; friendship between OI and Grenoble. [42:35] Remarks on: OI manufacture of standard products; value of designing custom equipment to keeping skills; innovating with customers; top scientists, such as Rex Richards of Oxford always needing top equipment; standard magnets for Bruker, Varian and Nikolai; Varian takeover of Magnex in Oxford. [45:25] Comments on Rex Richards: Oxford professor or Chemistry, and Vice Chancellor; multi-talented; friendly interactions between Oxford University and OI staff; OI's Peter Hanley's impression of value of seeing many experiments in Oxford; difficulties recruiting technicians, anecdote about Harwell accusing MW of stealing their apprentices. [50:30] Further remarks on MRI: whole body scanners; superconducting magnet trials at Hammersmith; hospitals going to big medical companies for equipment rather than small companies, OI making most MRI magnets for a time; MRI effect on OI, rapid growth; joint venture with Siemens, who were making over-expensive magnets; active shielded magnets to cancel stray magnetic field, successfully patented in spite of Phillips counter-patent; [55:05] anecdote about MW demonstration of MRI magnet to Queen Mother at Royal Society; Magnetic Spectroscopy equipment; anecdote about magnetics sucking in metallic objects. [closed section 00:57:42- end]


    Track 8 [29:32] Comments on growth of OI over 1970s, increasing turnover over years, with reference to graph in 'Magnetic Venture'. [02:30] Comments on: 1965 move to Osney Mead boathouse; development and operation of Oxford Cryogenics liquid helium milk round, competition with BOC, based in old laundry building; growth in 1970s; AW role as director and company secretary; value of AW letter writing skills in winning Queen's award and in helping MW write letters; MW role in 1970s, associated with Clarendon, much marketing work, links to many customers through Kurti; [09:00] importance of Simon, Kurti and Mendelssohn, to Clarendon. [09:45] AW quotation from Magnetic Venture describing difficult conditions in the 1970s; 1970s worries over cash flow, superconductors shortages. [11:35] Remarks about beginnings of OI involvement in making super conductors in 1980s: BOC owned AirCo company in USA, OI wanting an American site, OI joint venture with BOC; superconducting electromagnet production and cold farm to keep magnets cool; expansion of superconducting wire manufacturing; orders for ITER reactor; OI buying out BOC. [14:35] Remarks on: AW duties as company secretary; interest in MRI; longevity of dilution refrigerator business; early development of superconductivity at Leiden by Kamerlingh Onnes; Barry Marsden's pessimistic nature balancing MW and AW's optimism; MW activities marketing and holding everything together; MW quotation on growth of company in 1970s and question of where was the company going. [19:45] Remarks on MW and AW desire to share ownership of OI with employees: democratic nature; loyalty to staff; distribution of shares to pension and trust funds; 1968 sales of shares to senior staff. [21:40] Comments on expectations of where company was going: desire not to be typical capitalists; interest in products produced; patriotism; democratic expectations of wanting workers involved; lack of understanding of backers and bank manager. [24:20] Comments on: OI never feeling like a big company; decentralisation and centralisation; guiding concerns, medical not core business, director suggesting they abandon magnets; reasons for success of OI by end of 1970s, MD Barry Marsden; current MD Jonathan Flint's commercial focus; further reasons for OI success, MNR, MRI market, support of banks, becoming a respected name, Queen's Awards


    Track 9 [1:19:58][Interview Five: 21 March 2012] Remarks on OI in 1980s: production of first whole body magnet; decade of trying to keep up with demand; decision to float company on stock market in 1983, popularity of hi-tech companies at time; intricacies of taking a company public; anecdote about meeting at a merchant bank; anecdote about rewriting boring brochures at Grenoble; feelings about selling shares in OI, shareholders typically following example of MW and AW in creating a worthwhile company; [06:20] concerns about hostile takeover from competitor Bruker; early investors in OI; shareholders trust in MW and AW, lack of knowledge about MRI; OI status as innovative company; importance of investments in growing OI; popularity of high-tech companies in 1980s. [10:50] Remarks on OI purchase of Plasma Technology and Link Scientific companies: early losses followed by high profits; long term prospects of company; use of Leeke technologies in X-ray analysis, electron microscopes, hand held mineral analysis instruments, conversion of research tool into handy appliance useful for industrial quality control and monitoring imports; MW and AW lack of personal involvement with innovations in later years. [17:40] Remarks on: change in AW role in company, resigning directorship but still doing some writing; MW becoming deputy chairman to Barry Marsden's chairman after flotation; MRI section head John Woodgate; rapid growth of MRI market; joint venture with BOC for American superconducting magnet factory in Carteret, New Jersey, currently used as a cold farm for magnets; [22:45] importance of continuing research and development, close relationship of development process with customers. [24:27] Comments on development of active shield for magnets: value preventing magnets disrupting other instruments in laboratories or hospitals; previous Siemens solution of huge metal shield; innovation within OI, value of having design team close to production team. [27:45] Description of improved cryostat support with low thermal conductivity for MRI magnet, principles of operation, improved by OI engineers in the course of their work, allowing easier shipping of magnets cold. [34:15] Anecdote about John Woodgate shipping a large magnet order to a US company by Russian transport plane. [35:00] Remarks on links to universities and Harwell: anecdote about unofficial arrangements with research labs; useful links with Birmingham University. [37:20] Remarks on MW involvement with advisory committees: Council for Cryogenic Research; Scientific Committee for Margaret Thatcher; Advisory Council for Science and Technology; committee with John Fairclough, who was also on OI board. [41:15] Remarks on management of OI: 1980s chairman Sir Austin Pearce; qualities of chairman and chief executive Peter Williams, busy with several other activities as well as OI, including Science Museum and Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council [PPARC]; chief executive Andrew Mackintosh; Jonathan Flint's ability to appreciate detailed research and larger research picture; anecdote about MW surprise at Flint's varied employment history and quality of planning for OI. [48:55]


    Track 9 [cont' from 48:55] Remarks on: collapse in MRI business c1989, factors against company as other companies started making own magnets, Peter Williams negotiating with Siemens to continue supplying magnets through a joint venture in Oxford, ability of OI to make cheaper magnets, Siemens eventually buying out OI; [52:20] Siemens subsequent investment in magnet business; ambitious production programme of joint venture; Oxfordshire status as world low temperature and superconductor centre; cluster of small companies around OI; German chairmen of join venture enjoying time in Oxfordshire. [55:55] Remarks on MW and AW activities outside OI: AW becoming a school governor and council member of local wildlife trust, silver smithing classes; funds after OI flotation allowing MW and AW to help small companies; setting up Oxford Seedcorn Capital Ltd with friends Anthony Costley-White, John Laurie and Jonathan Welfare; story about Oxford Seedcorn's successful investment in Sophos, founded by Peter Lammer and Jan Hruska now a huge computer security and anti-virus company; [1:01:30] later investment and assistance to family linked Healthcare at Home company run by Charlie Walsh; MW view that there should be more companies like OI; anecdote about Oxford Vice Chancellor opinion of OI; reasons for OI success as university spin-off, importance of personalities; interest in running companies for their own sake not to make money. [1:06:05] Remarks on Oxford Trust: set up 1985 to help small companies and help school science education; current plans to develop Science Centre in Oxford, designed by Foster and partners, to encourage entrepreneurs and science; difficulties finding premises for OI in early days, leading them to keep early site as incubator for small companies; description of Oxford Trust 'science slum' for small companies in Osney Meade, the Science and Technology Enterprise Project [STEP] centre; anecdote about meeting at STEP with Sir Robin Nicholson; [1:11:35] MW knowing government chief scientist Robin Nicholson through a committee under Mrs Thatcher for small businesses; anecdote about MW disagreement with Mrs Thatcher over blue skies research at a meeting in All Souls College, Oxford. [1:13:40] Further remarks on Oxford Trust: MW and AW personal involvement; fund raising for Magnet project; outreach work for government committees; current site near Headington Hill; MW and AW personal involvement in companies, advice to Sophos; difficulties of sales for small companies; Oxford Centre for Innovation on Mill Street; Oxford Innovation company spun off from Oxford Trust, now merged with SQW consultancy firm and run by Ian Lang, to provide advice and facilities for small companies.


    Track 10 [48:49] Remarks on OI in 1990s: long recession at start of decade; factor affecting OI success, balance of industrial and research markets; performance of OI industrial and research equipment and Plasma technology in 12009 recession. [01:39] Remarks on OI links in Japan: business conditions dealing with Japan, importance of Tokyo, language; MW visits around Japan; slowness of some companies in exporting to Japan; OI initially using agents to deal with Japan; OI executive Paul Brankin investigating Japanese market; setup of Oxford Instruments KK in Japan, initially set up by Tony Ford; cultural issues with employing Japanese staff, appointment of Japanese chief executive Jiro Kitaura. [05:50] Remarks on awarding of prizes in Japan to improve profile in 1990s: Millennium committee of Japanese physicists to judge prize for young physicist; help of British Embassy reception; award of lecture tour in England and meeting with MW and AW at home. [09:30] Remarks on: MW and AW involvement with OI today, shareholders; longevity of OI; recent article on OI in 'Oxford Times' about its spin-off success; reasons for OI success, luck, wide appeal of products to stable research field, difficult condition in 1970s; innovation of mobile medical recorders, profitable but not core business. [14:25] Remarks on importance of superconductivity to OI success: early involvement of OI with superconductors, 1960s conference on superconductivity; discovery of superconductivity by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes; support of Clarendon laboratory, symbiotic relationship. [17:05] Remarks on retirement: MW retirement in 2003; MW continued activities with OI; MW awarding the Martin Wood prize in Japan every year at the British Embassy; trusts and investing taking much of their time; fitting in to Oxford University organisations. [21:15] Remarks on: Earth Trust, formerly Northmoor Trust set up in 1967, environmental trust, owns nearby wood; Sylva Foundation to improve Britain's woodlands, based at home, growing on Internet, influence worldwide, school project based around Duke of Marlborough's oak tree. [24:35]


    Track 10 [cont' from 24:35] Remarks contrasting OI today and in early history: retained ethical and fair culture of early operations; occasional recessions and redundancies; OI chief executive and chairman following their original ethic; not looking this far forward when they founded the company, limited business knowledge and attending courses. [28:20] Story about MW formative experience working in a factory as a teenager, covering for his injured sister, not being rewarded for increasing productivity. [30:50] Remarks on AW writing 'Magnetic Venture' book about history of OI, MW high opinion of AW writing, value of AW studying English and Science at Cambridge under Leavis and Swan; value of complementary skills [Quote THIS 23ish]; [33:48] AW Methodist missionary background, discussion about people at home, mother managing a church; AW and mother's unskilled labour in building magnets. [35:40] Discussion about MW and AW awards: recent Mendelssohn Award, OBE, knighthood, 10 honorary degrees, [pause 37:24] Royal Society award for MW; AW OBE for conservation. [37:55] Remarks on hobbies outside work: turning hobbies into trusts; travel, Antarctica; sabbatical leave in Australia in 1969; new chief executive Barry Marsden dispatching them to set up French office of OI. [39:43] Further discussion about MW awards, with aid of box full of awards: clock; IEE award made of superconductor; Japanese award of Order of the Rising Sun to MW; Bevin Boy medal; Mullard Award; particular value of Bevin Boy medal and Order of Rising Sun to MW; OBE's, Knight Bachelor award; Queens Awards for OI; value of Japanese and American awards and Fellowship of Royal Society to MW. [46:45] Remarks on: taking part in interviews; MW enjoying working with hands and valuing awards for physical work; Japanese award; anecdote about MW wearing Japanese medal to a dinner at the Rutherford lab retrospectively allowed by Queen.


    Track 11 [1:00:12][Interview Six: 16 April 2012] Remarks on MW: photograph of MW in a pram; born in Great Milton 19 April 1927; elder father than mother, differences in parents in personalities and interests but ability to compromise; father Arthur Henry Wood, mother Katherine Altham Wood; mother's family background in iron making in Bradford; mother's personality and appearance, became a university student at 72 to make up for lack of education earlier on; [05:22] father working at Board of Education in London, responsible for education of crippled children, devised Nuffield Orthopedic Hospital with Dr Gathorne Girdlestone, MW's stern godfather; Girdlestone and MW father convincing Lord Nuffield to fund hospital; father's personality, upstanding, educated, adaptive, cycled to France for holidays, skilled pianist, played piano to MW in nursery, death of first wife. [09:45] Story about how MW's parents met through family connections. Remarks on: MW father's first wife and their daughter; MW home, large house in village; father's interest in gardening; remaining active on grammar school and Nuffield hospital boards in retirement; work at Board of Education and involvement with Nuffield Hospital with godfather Girdlestone. [13:10] Remarks on AW: born 2 November 1927 in Hankow, China to missionary parents; parents journey in a Sampan as refugees during troubles in China; anecdote about mother fixing boat with plasticine; parents work as Methodist missionaries, mother's service during demise of Manchu dynasty by Chiang Kai-shek and Nationalists; story about father's leading a warlord's army to safety through hostile warlord's lines; story about father's escape from bandits. [17:30] Remarks on AW parents, John and Lillian May Stanfield: father's studious nature and conscientious nature as preacher; mother's practical nature, all her children surviving childhood; sent all children to university despite low salaries with aid of small grants; story about mother turning down Cambridge place because of finances; mother becoming a teacher-missionary; parents meeting in Hangkow; anecdote about father singing old songs; reasons for parents becoming missionaries, family traditions in missionary work. [22:50] Remarks on AW childhood: childhood in Hoonang Province; parent's holidays by P&O boat to England, Italy, Palestine; 4th birthday on boat; staying with relations in Hastings; learning to swim on boat, anecdote about falling in swimming pool in China; living in walled city of Bah Ching, now So Chu Yang; semi-bungalow home; mother teaching them with aid of 'Child Education'; anecdotes about mother's science teaching; paper mache globe; [27:30] summers at Jo Jang in Lo Shang mountains; parents' interests, mothers' craft skills, and political outlooks; anecdote about parents hiding church's money from Communists in postwar years, problems leaving China; picnics in summers at pools mountains; dangers in streets of Bah Ching; [33:35] [pause] Chinese armour and other servants; anecdote about liking plain rice; shyness of Chinese children they played with; later living in city of Chang Sha, anecdote about playing in buildings; mother setting up school in Yale American compound on city edge; AW siblings; anecdote about riding Rickshaw to Yale; AW mother organising orphanage for girls at Bah Ching; anecdote about mother organising maypole dancing for school; [38:35] awareness of Communist problems as child, having to move about quickly; fire in Bah Ching. [39:45]


    Track 11[cont' from 39:45] Remarks on AW father: work as minister; AW mother once helping at missionary hospital; father's skill at social work; scholarly in classical languages; anecdote about father starting prayers in England in Chinese. [41:50] Further remarks on AW after leaving China aged 8: siblings attending school in England and staying with grandparents in holidays; AW attending local elementary and high schools then moving to boarding school in Southport; father's experiences in Sino-Japanese war, burning of Chang Sha, return to UK in 1939; father's church in Runcorn; [45:10] AW feelings on being in England; family home in Hastings from 1936 near to family. [46:00] Remarks on AW religious outlook: religion in AW upbringing; AW questioning aspects of religion in her teens whilst studying science; agnostic outlook; feelings on religion when first husband died; disagreeing with Richard Dawkins, enjoying attending church sometimes; feelings on Christianity compared to Islam; values from Christian upbringing. [49:35] Remarks on religion in MW upbringing: father playing organ in church, MW pumping organ; father's interest in Christianity, writing a book 'The Old Testament as History' and on different versions of Bible; Christian atmosphere of home, closeness to Church; influence of upbringing on MW, valuing Christian values; MW sister becoming nurse in at a missionary hospital at Assam, living with AW and MW until death at 99. [53:05] Remarks on: AW brother John who became a clergyman after serving in SOE in China during war, signed the Japanese surrender for Britain in Beijing, recently writing up history, going to Cambridge at same time as AW; sister Margaret, a doctor, who died in 1987; sister Lorna. [56:00] Remarks on MW siblings: family background of father remarrying after death of first wife; half sister from first marriage, nurse in Assam; anecdote about sisters' experiments with anaesthetic, MW helping to build equipment; anecdote about MW writing to King of Sweden for parts for an instrument steriliser for sister's hospital.


    Track 12 [56:57] Remarks on AW hobbies: nature study; sewing; brother's Meccano; youth hostelling with sister, such as walking in Peak District; building Meccano toys; reading, Dickens, Scott, Austin, Hugo; going to school in England; playing with a whip top. [06:35] Remarks on MW hobbies: interest in methods of production of things; story about job in school holidays, when MW went unrewarded for speeding up production; [10:20] working with father, making things to speed up doing small jobs; interest in forestry from childhood, working in wood rather than in training corps at school; patrolling coast of Newquay with school when evacuated, German sabotage; anecdote about motorising on butter churner as a youth using vacuum cleaner motor and home made rheostat [QUOTE THIS]; [17:30] MW disapproving of father neglecting to sharpen tools; death of MW in war. [18:20] Remarks on MW siblings: half sister, four brothers, sister; comparisons of MW and siblings, practically skilled brother killed in war, surgeon brother; remarks on photo of butter churner; happy family life; occupations of other siblings, nurse, doctor; MW brother launching flying doctor service in Africa; description of MW doctor brother. [23:03] Remarks on MW: MW wanting to be an engineer from youth; MW decision to become Bevin boy, enjoying mining; family connections with Cambridge, decision to study engineering; family occupations; MW enjoyments in making things; discussion of pen holding hand carved by MW; MW artistic bent, courses in drawing at Cambridge technical college; MW considering himself a generalist, extent of knowledge of maths; being able to envisage engineering design in his mind.[30:10]


    Track 12 [cont' from 30:10] Remarks on AW schooling: AW elementary and schooling in Hastings; Trinity Hall boarding school in Southport, enjoyment of exploring school before term started thanks to evacuation from Runcorn; AW life in a small boarding school for Methodist ministers daughters, daily milk ration, prep, games, singing; young or older school teachers in wartime; science teacher Joan Kemp; music teacher Katie K [Kempster]; [35:50] science lessons, having physics lessons from boy's school physics master; anecdote about school parliament voting for chemistry to be taught at school certificate level; AW all rounder status; AW deciding to study biology rather than medicine, enjoying studying wildlife; dissection in biology classes; sport; decision to go to Cambridge university. [40:30] Remarks on MW schooling: attending New College School, Oxford; war preventing a year in France; disabled teachers during war; disagreements with masters; enjoying exploring countryside in Cornwall, avoiding land-mines on Friston Beach; dislike of organised games; MW enjoying most subjects if well taught, such as chemistry and carpentry; disliking classics, but winning a prize; injured teachers during war; MW mostly enjoying school; MW evacuation to hotel in Cornwall from Holton in Norfolk; wartime conditions meaning the suspension of normal public school rules; [48:30] MW doing gardening for locals in Cornwall and repairing woodland used as army training ground rather than school training corps; MW later buying local wood as a nature reserve. [51:20] Remarks on: MW school results; AW working late into evenings. Description of AW in late teens, vivacious family. Description of AW in late teens.

  • Notes:
    Recording: 2011-11-21, 2012-01-16, 2012-02-14, 2012-03-21;
    - Wood, Martin, 1927- (speaker, male; interviewee);
    - Wood, Audrey (speaker, female; interviewee);
    - Lean, Thomas (speaker, male; interviewer)
    Recording Notes: audio file 10 WAV 24 bit 48 kHz 2-channel
    Item notes: First interview lost due to card failure. First session recorded is actually the second interview in series. The last session recorded covered the topics covered in the first (lost) interview i.e. tracks 11 and 12 replace the missing tracks that begin the interview. Track 3 was accessioned in error.
    Access restrictions: The following sections are closed for 30 years until April 2043: Track 6 [00:38:15 - 00:38:24] and Track 7 [00:57:42- end]. The remainder of the recording has no restrictions

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