Doing it for Britain
Science and service in oral history with government scientists
in Scientific governance in Britain, 1914–79
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This chapter uses life story oral history interviews to examine the personal experiences of government scientists in Britain between the 1940s and 1980s. It considers their motivations for joining the scientific civil service, how they felt about working for the state, and the workplace culture of government science. In particular, it demonstrates how the work of government scientists encompassed many different forms of service to the country. These ranged from support for the military, to scientific diplomacy and scientific projects linked to national prestige. In each of these, however, a sense of duty was most frequently something that was implicit, rather than trumpeted. Finally, the chapter explores how some of the changes in government science after the 1960s - when this implicit public service ethic was challenged by a more commercial orientation - were experienced by those whose working lives they reshaped.

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