University archive colleagues have been incredibly kind and spent time with me looking through his photos. Apparently there is some genuine interest in the history of electron microscopy and molecular biology these days.
The estate of Dr Peter Highton will be happy to donate whatever we have in our cupboards.
We have welcomed some excellent speakers as part of our commitment to raising understanding of equality and diversity issues in our workplace. It has been particularly interesting to have academic colleagues present the most up to date data from their research and describe how their work influences public policy development in Scotland.
Our speakers this year have been Barbara Melville (Equate Scotland) on the language of job ads; Morna Simpson introducing Girl Geek Scotland; Professor Sheila Riddell (Chair in Inclusion and Diversity) on disability data and employment and Dr Tom Callard (UoE Business School) on managerial perspectives. ISG directors have also considered initiatives for apprenticeships, ‘Women Returners’ projects and we have become an institutional sponsor of Geek Girl Scotland.
For our next event the PlayFair Steps team have partnered with Fathers Network Scotland – a national charity who specialise in creating dad-friendly workplaces – to facilitate a short focus group specifically for ISG. Research has consistently shown that one of the key groups missing from discussions on gender equality are fathers in the workplace. Dads at work also need to feel supported in combining their work with their family commitments. This focus group will explore the key areas in which you believe could be addressed at work to support work-life balance.
We have also recently announced the appointment of the new Director of Software Development and Application. There will now be three ( that’s three!) women at Director level. I think that might be a record.
A year ago this weekend my father died. Peter worked for pretty much his whole career at University of Edinburgh, at Kings Buildings, in the Darwin Building. He was a molecular biologist, although at Oxford he had studied Physics. I know that his time at Oxford (Wadham) was very happy and he was delighted when I chose to spend some of my career there.
My memories of being a child visiting his lab include the smell of the foyer, the enormous slices of wood from Forestry, playing with plastic molecule models and spinning around on the office chairs.
Peter was the expert in using Edinburgh’s electron microscope and he took pictures of tiny, tiny things*. The microscope was a huge heavy piece of kit which needed to be absolutely still and absolutely flat in order to work properly. In their wisdom Edinburgh colleagues decided to put it on the top floor of the tallest tower which was known to sway in the wind.
Using his knowledge of physics Peter built a sling in which the microscope could sit, making it possible to use. He must have saved the University a fair bit of money because this thing was not cheap.
I am not quite sure what my father’s research was, I suspect it was research into microscopy. I’ ve found a few journal articles and I remember stories of Anne Mclaren and Martin Pollock so his work must have been linked to early genetics. When I was a teenager at school he arranged for me to have my first summer job making fruit -fly food in Mary Bownes’ lab**.
As the executor of his estate I now have a collection of these early electron-micrograph images. If I get time I will digitise them and add them to Wikimedia in the hope they will be useful to someone.
I know that Peter earned royalties from them during his career, but I can find no evidence of an ongoing relationship with an image agency, so it is time for them to become OER. I’d love to hear from anyone who might be able to identify which of the images are of more interest than others.
Fun update to this blog post: Clare (Project Archivist, cataloguing the papers of Sir Kenneth and Lady Noreen Murray )*** has found a picture of Peter in this line drawing by Edith Simon, which has been digitised (he’s top row, fourth from the right, in case you can’t distinguish him from the other beardy scientists).