Proving extremely popular are the videos and films made with Professor Eric Laithwaite. In this blog I’m pleased to be able to bring you one of several films that were in the personal collection of Eric Laithwaite and that I was lucky enough to be able to secure in the Imperial Archive after he’d died.
Engineering the Hovertrain was made in 1972 by the then, Central Office of Information. It’s about the only real example of the creation and operation of the experimental hovertrain vehicle the RTV31, seen running on the test track that was built in the UK.
This is the first in a series of interviews with leading academics from Imperial College London. The aim, is to gain an insight into the person and also the work that they are carrying out at the college. Our first interview is with Professor David Phillips who came to the Department of Chemistry at Imperial in 1989 from the Royal Institution. There, he was deputy to the Director, Lord George Porter; who prior to David, had also come to work at the college in 1987. At Imperial David held the Hoffmann Chair and his work studied the fluorescence in biological systems. He later became the head of the Department of Chemistry (1992-2002).
David is well known for his lively and entertaining lectures, normally ending with very loud bangs and flashes. You can see Chemical Christmas Crackers, one example, or a even Little Light Relief, both on our YouTube channel. In 1987 David jointly presented that years Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, entitled Crystals and Lasers.
For this interview, Professor Lord Robert Winston talks to David Phillips about his life and work.
The next video in this series will be Robert Winston talking to Professor Robert (Bob) Spence.
In 1997 Professor Bob Spence interviewed Dr Colin Vickery, a colleague of his from the Department of Electrical Engineering. The intention was to show the video during an Alumni event that Colin was unable to attend. I hope that maybe some of those same Alumni will watch that video once more.
Colin Vickery has very kindly sent me some words to put the video into context, so most of this is his hard work and not mine! And Bob Spence has provided me with the excellent photos that were taken at Bob’s 80th Birthday celebration in 2013, that I also attended.
Colin was, at the time of the interview, running a postgraduate section on microprocessor applications. Bob Spence and Colin Vickery had shared a flat during the time that they were doing PhDs under Roy Boothroyd who was Prof Colin Cherry’s Reader. Colin Vickery had come back from industry where he’d spent a couple of years with the Plessey company working in a small research unit in Romsey and was appointed as a lecturer for a period, working for Cherry/Boothroyd and was then invited to join Prof Bruce Sayers in his Engineering in Medicine section where he stayed for many more years. Prior to this, he’d travelled to Houston, USA, where he joined a summer school which was run for a mixture of Medical and Engineering people. There he learned basic physiology, while the medical people learned basic electrical engineering.
Eventually, Bruce Sayers became Head of Electrical Engineering and Colin was given a postgraduate section devoted to microprocessor applications, working alongside colleagues Dick Wilde and Bill Cutler who were both on his staff. After a year or two they were appointed as consultants on the government Mapcon scheme (Microprocessor application consultants) and did a variety of feasibility and implementation studies including small hydroelectric projects, such as Wookey Hole and Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. He joined with Prof Anderson in a project, for a firm in Horsham, de-boning bacon backs using robotics. It was exhibited in the exhibition at the college in 1985 (City and Guilds Tech2000) which Margaret Thatcher opened and then toured; telling them all that, ‘..she knew all about bacon’ (her Father was a grocer)!
In June 1998, a year after this interview, he suffered a stroke, but continued to work for the college part time until 2010 when he was 75 years old. This interview is a reminder of those times now long past and some of the people that made up the college in the 1950’s and onwards.
Professor Patrick Purcell (1929-2007) was described in his Times obituary as “Pioneer of computing and design“. As far as I know, this is the only interview made with Patrick, whom I got to know during his time as visiting professor of human computer interaction at Imperial College London. I had actually known him prior to that via LIVE-NET Video Conference from Northern Ireland linking through to Imperial.
Until his death, he worked along side Professor Bob Spence, who commented after Patrick’s death “…when I realised that Patrick Purcell was approaching retirement from his appointment in Northern Ireland I immediately suggested to the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of Imperial that he be invited to be a Visiting Professor. A very selfish act, no doubt, but one I have never regretted…”
At my suggestion, this interview was recorded for an outside company called Lantec and was in the occasional series called Video Interface. Because of Patrick’s depth of knowledge of all things ‘digital’, this was the obvious first question posed to him at the start of the interview by Steve Bell. It was recorded in the Imperial College TV Studio in June 1995.
This is an update to the original entry earlier this year. Pathe have just released all of its archive onto YouTube, so I am now able to bring you the film clip direct and in higher quality, rather than going via their own website.
In November 1965 the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited Imperial College to officially open the newly completed Department of Biochemistry, headed by Sir Ernst Chain (1906-1979). What you will see are the original 1965 (silent) film rushes shot by Pathe News for its weekly newsreel, shown in cinemas at that time. These newsreels ended in 1970. It is to be assumed that the final edited film (if that ever happened) would have had a commentary on it, but this is all silent.
This film record by Pathe is one of the few that were shot on campus at this time. Sequences include the arrival, at the old college Exhibition Road entrance; Sir Patrick Linstead (Rector), Sir Ernst Chain and Lord Sherfield (Chairman Governing Body) all greeting the Queen Mother upon her arrival. This film would have been shot some 8 months before the sudden death of Linstead. You will also see the very obvious building work taking place across the entire campus, with a complete gap where Sherfield and the library now stand. Finally and most importantly, there are shots of Chain in his laboratory, something that we do not have in our own archives.
Were you in the crowd that day? Maybe you are one of the students lining up to speak with the Queen Mother at the end of the film? If you are, then do let us know.
For the centenary of Dennis Garbor’s birth on 5th June 1900 we recorded this retrospective discussion between Professor Igor Aleksander and former Imperial Rector, Professor Sir Eric Ash. Eric Ash graduated from Imperial with a first class honours degree in electrical engineering in 1948 and received his doctorate four years later in 1952. His Ph.D. supervisor was Dennis Gabor, so he has first hand knowledge of the man and the research he was carrying out at that time. Eric Ash and Igor Aleksander have both been heads of Electrical Engineering Departments, Ash at University College London and Aleksander at Imperial College London. In this recording they discuss the work of Dennis Gabor that lead to him receiving the Nobel Prize in 1971 for his invention of Holography. I met Gabor just once, when he very briefly discussed with me his previous (unsuccessful) ideas for a flat TV tube (at the time, we were standing in the TV Studio in front of a Sony Trinitron colour TV).
This recording was made in the Imperial College TV Studio in May 2000.
Predating the 1993 Undergraduate and Postgraduate Videos, seen in a previous blog, Lady Clare Ash (the wife of former Rector Sir Eric Ash) made a one-off video called Snapshots.
It was made to showcase just some of the then current research taking place at Imperial. I seem to recall that Eric Ash was about to go on an overseas trip to several countries, including India and that this was made to accompany his presentations. You’ll notice the emphasis on past Imperial Nobel Prize winners at the start of the video and a rather slow list of Imperial’s Fellows of the Royal Society towards the end.
Several areas of research from around the college were featured. Two Nobel Prize winners included were the late Lord George Porter (1920-2002) and the late Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson (1921-1996), both are seen working in their respective labs. Bob Schroter (featured in a previous blog) talks about his work with Camels; Steve Ley, formerly from Chemistry, discusses pest control, whilst Howard Thomas from St Mary’s talks about Hepatitis Vaccine.
Towards the end, we featured some of the first ‘vox pops’ in one of our videos, where current students talk about their experiences and views of being at Imperial College. You will see the first aerial footage of Imperial used at the start of the video. This was provided to us by the (then) University of London Audio Visual Centre and was shot by them as part of a 16mm film they made for Channel Four Television. The video concludes with the former Rector himself, Sir Eric Ash, speaking direct to the audience with his views on where Imperial is today and what his vision is for Imperial tomorrow. This was shot in the old Rectors office up in the Sherfield Building.
In 1981 the Centre for Robotics and Automation was formed by Professor Tom Husband and was located in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. 30 years ago, in 1984 we made a promotional video for the centre to showcase the activities and work being carried out. I can find little or nothing about the centre (or any photos) from college sources and assume it was closed some while after Tom Husband left Imperial College in 1990. Indeed, in Hannah Gay’s ‘History of Imperial College’ she comments that the move towards robotics didn’t work out as expected since the research attracted computer scientists rather than engineers. The only article I found on the centre is from an edition of the student newspaper Felix dated May 1985 (see pages 8&9). That centre is not to be confused with the current Centre for Robotic Surgery, which is something completely different.
The centre was located in the area of Mechanical Engineering that was on the corner that fronted onto both Exhibition Road and the entrance for cars (Imperial College Road). You can see people walking along the pavement and very close to the windows in the section that shows the Lansing robot working. The running of the robots was in fact a bit of a crowd-stopper at times, especially school kids on their way to and from the museums. It was one of the few showcases that Imperial ever had, maybe we need to bring one back again!
Bob Schroter came to the City and Guilds College, within the Imperial College, as an undergraduate student in 1959.
In this video, recorded in 2006 for the centenary celebrations of 2007, he talks about his time as an undergraduate, then as a postgraduate and finally a member of college staff. During his time as a student, Bob became the president of the students union and since then has become heavily involved in the Old Centralians Trust. His time as president of the union involved meetings and discussions with the then Rector, Sir Patrick Linstead. During the interview Bob talks about the Links Club and the various mascots of the student unions, particularly those of City and Guilds. The Exploration Board is mentioned and the fact that this was started only a matter of years before Bob became a student at Imperial College in the late 1950’s.
Bob ends by talking about the Physiological Flow Studies Unit (PFSU) (of which he became deputy head for many years) and his research, which involved working with Camels and then Horses.
If you would like to see more of this type of Alumni video interview and can make suggestions as to who should take part, then please contact me via the LEAVE A REPLY box below. We would very much appreciate people like Rogers Knight who can tell us stories about Imperial College life in times past, especially those pre-war.
Made originally for showing only at the 2002 Open Day, this fast-paced video ended up being used in many different ways and on just as many occasions too. As with all these archive videos there are the usual array of shots of Imperial from the past. The video was made before we went from the old ‘square’ 4:3 video format into widescreen 16:9 so that makes it look even older to me. You will also notice that this was prior to the new Imperial branding, so the caption scrolling across only says Imperial College and not Imperial College London as it would these days. Although it’s all a bit fast to analyse each individual image, you may spot some shots of the original Southside with its bike rack, as well as the old sports gym. Can you also spot the now gone Waterstones bookshop in the Library and also the Squash court? The video was also before the completion of the new Business School and college main entrance. So the architects ‘fly through’ animation was used to give an impression of what was to come. A lot has now changed at Imperial since this video was made only 11 years ago and that includes the college TV studio closure (our logo is seen at the end of the video). I hope that Alumni will find a few memories in looking at this.