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Title: The faces of British science : narrating lives in science since c.1945
Author: Wainman, Ruth
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 1249
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2017
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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.
Supervisor: Sleigh, Charlotte ; Pattinson, Juliette Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: D History General and Old World