UK to create oral history, archive of 200 British scientists.

This morning, the BBC reports the British Library will interview and record 200 scientists to form a permanent record of the way British science has been practiced.

“This is going to be enormously valuable to future historians because people no longer write letters or prepare archives,” said Sir Nicholas Goodison, chairman of National Life Stories, in an interview with the BBC. “E-mail is very difficult to archive and is mostly deleted by the people that write them.”

In fact, a study prompting this project found that at least nine British Nobel winners have died in the past 10 years “leaving little or no archive of their work”.

This archive will focus on four themes: inventions, climate change, biomedicine and cosmology, and an advisory board will help select the scientists to be interviewed. According to the BBC report, selected scientists and engineers will be interviewed about their “childhood, education, influences, relationships and frustrations to build up a picture of how science has been practiced”.

(Thanks to @mardixon for sharing this with us.)

  • nmrguy

    “…leaving little or no archive of their work.” This makes no sense at all! What about all of their publications? These are needed to bring them to such notoriety in the first place! This particular emphasis would only cover their academic accomplishments and not their personal life. Interviews of not only the scientists themselves, but of their family and closest friends would fill out more personal details.

    I would like to know which scientists will be chosen and how. Who is on the selection process will determine who are chosen. One can only hope the scientists selected comprise a broad spectrum of the specified fields.

    P.S. I am not sure I like this new DISCUS comment app!

  • D'oh! Well, there goes my short term memory! (Current physical illness shouldn't have leaked over to mental!)

    I think oral histories are a great idea- see NPR's Story Corps series ( It would be nice to have an analagous version for those of us on this side of the pond!

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