Oral-History:Mike Glazer

About Anthony Michael (Mike) Glazer

Mike Glazer is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and Visiting Professor at the University of Warwick. He was born on May 1st 1943. His PhD research between 1965 and 1968 was under the supervision of Kathleen Lonsdale at University College London, working on the crystallography of organic mixed crystals. In 1968-1969, he was a Fellow at Harvard University, and then from 1969 to 1976 he was at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. In 1976, he was appointed Lecturer in Physics at the Clarendon Laboratory Oxford and as an Official Fellow and Tutor at Jesus College Oxford. Mike Glazer's research has mainly been in understanding the relationship between physical properties of crystals and their structures. He is perhaps best known for his classification system for tilted octahedra in perovskites. He is also one of the co-founders of Oxford Cryosystems Ltd, which supplies the world market in low-temperature apparatus for crystallographers.

This interview covers Mike Glazer’s early life and education and how he became interested in crystallography at a very early age. It shows how he turned from being a very unpromising student at school, who failed most of his exams, into one of the world’s leading crystallographers. His work has given the world a highly-effective and widely-used notation system for describing octahedral tilting in perovskites, a cryogenic cooling system that is widely used in X-ray crystallography, especially for protein structure determination and a system for measuring optical birefringences to very high precision. The interview explains how he has made major contributions to our understanding of ferroelectric materials, their structures and phase transitions and the connections between crystal structure and physical properties. Along the way, there are many fascinating stories about well-known crystallographers, including Lawrence Bragg, Kathleen Lonsdale and Helen Megaw, and how Mike developed a very close relationship with Polish scientists during the 1980’s, a relationship that persists to this day.

About the Interview

Mike Glazer: An interview conducted by Roger Whatmore, Imperial College London. Conducted at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford, UK on 9th and 23rd October 2018.

Interview #822 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

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Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Samuel C. Williams Library, 3rd Floor, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken NJ 07030 USA or ieee-history@ieee.org. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Mike Glazer, an oral history conducted in 2018 by Roger Whatmore, IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Prof Anthony Michael (Mike) Glazer

INTERVIEWER: Prof Roger Whatmore

DATE: 9th October 2018

PLACE: Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford

Earliest Days

Whatmore:

This is an interview for the IEEE Oral History record and I'm delighted to be talking to Mike Glazer here at the Clarendon laboratory, Oxford University. Mike would you like to introduce yourself by telling as a little bit about your childhood and upbringing, where you were born etc

Glazer:

Well, I was born in North London and went to school there. An unremarkable childhood I would say, really. I narrowly scraped into Grammar School at the age of 11. At the school I was awful – couldn’t be bothered with any of it, so I failed completely at school, mainly because I got myself interested in crystals at a very early age. That was the thing that dominated my life at the time - still does for that matter. So, looking back at my school record, it's remarkably bad!

Whatmore:

Laughter

Glazer:

In a school report, I remember what the history teacher wrote at the end of one term. He said: “Utterly disgraceful!”. So that was my school record.

Whatmore:

(Laughing) So, what about your parents - who were your parents?

Glazer:

My parents. My father, he was a shopkeeper - sold carpets and curtains and things like that. He originally was in the markets. I remember as a kid that he used to go to the markets, on the stands selling cloth and so on. He started off in London. He was from a very, very poor family – so poor that at one stage he had to go with his mother and sell matches by the side of the road – that’s how poor he was. He never had any real education. He left school at 14 but always had this thing that he'd like to have been a scientist if he could, but he never had the educational background. But he was very, very clever, very inventive. He invented a lot of different things. Just the other day I discovered something I didn't know. I found some papers of his and, apparently, he took out a patent on plastic coated wire - you know the coiled wire you have on a telephone? The idea that it coils up? That was his - he invented that! Now, I don't think he made any money out of it, but I was surprised to see that was one of his ideas. He had a go at lots of things - the fibre tip pen he took out a patent on. I helped him with that and tried to get it produced in this country. I only found one company Stephens Ink who were prepared to have a go at it. They did it for a while. Then they gave up and so he left the patent lapse and within one month the Japanese company Pentel came up with a fibre tip pen. Things like that! He was very, very inventive but he was essentially a trader with this idea that he wanted to be a scientist. It meant that he encouraged me always in science. If there was a television programme late at night on science, he would let me come downstairs and watch the TV programme, so he encouraged me in that way.

Whatmore:

And your mum?

Glazer:

Mother, she came from a slightly wealthier family. They’d both come from the East End of London. Her father was more well-off. He’d come from Vitebsk in Russia and he went to school at the age of age of eight in this country, learning English. At one stage he’d had a timber yard and made quite a lot of money from that, so they were well off. There’s lots of stories I could tell you about him, but we don't have time. So, my mother used to work with my father. She used to go to the markets with him. He had a shop in Harrow and she went to work with him in the shop so they both worked together very, very hard.

The pebble that ignited Mike Glazer’s interest in crystals at the age of 8

Whatmore:

You said you got interested in crystals of very early age. Would you like to tell us a little bit about how that happened?

Glazer:

Well going from memory, I must have been around 8 years old and I was walking home from school - because in those days young boys were allowed to walk home from school by themselves, not like today - and I picked up a round pebble and I threw it on the ground.

Whatmore:

Can we see that?

Glazer:

So, this is the actual bit of the pebble. I threw it on the ground and when I saw it had broken into two I noticed these colours in there - you see the red and yellow zones. I was intrigued by it, so I started to collect various bits of rocks. And then I used to go on a Saturday morning on the underground train down to the centre of London to South Kensington, where the geological Museum was. So I used to go there every Saturday, walking around the museum, and then I discovered that there were crystals and fossils. I spent all day looking at those and learning about them, and I got to know the curators. They often would give me some samples and I gradually built up a collection of minerals, crystals and fossils and that’s how it all began. So, this little pebble here, that's the beginning ...

Whatmore:

That’s the start of it, amazing ...

Glazer:

Must have been about 1951, something like that and then a little later my mother bought me a copy of something called the Observer Book of Geology and I decided I wanted to be a geologist but in that book, there were lots of pictures of crystals and that's what attracted me. Pretty soon, I must have been about 11 I guess, I knew all about indexing faces of crystals and things like that. I gave lectures at school about crystals, often with those very old-fashioned lantern slides that the Museum lent me.

Whatmore:

Was that Primary school or Secondary school?

Glazer:

Secondary school – I was at secondary school by then, yes. At 11 years old you go to Grammar School. I just scraped into that. I did alright in the first term and, as I mentioned before, very badly afterwards. I wanted to be a geologist, but the headmaster of the school said to my mother that I wouldn't be able to be a geologist because it was too technical

Whatmore:

(Laughter)

Glazer:

So I became a physicist instead. (General laughter).

Whatmore:

And therein hangs a tale!! Ok, so other hobbies - did you have any other hobbies at school?

Glazer:

No, that was it! Well, no, I tell a lie. I used to like drawing cartoons. I did at one time think about being a cartoonist but at the age of 13 in those days you had to choose between the Arts and the Sciences.

Whatmore:

Yes, I remember it well!

Glazer:

My father said: “You should do the Sciences” - quite rightly

Whatmore:

Yeah.

Glazer:

That's what happens and I had to give up Art. It was the only subject I was top in.

Whatmore:

Have you managed to keep up your artistic interests since, in sketching and things?

Glazer:

Not so much in sketching but in preparing diagrams for scientific publications - I'm quite good at that.

Whatmore:

OK, so let's move on to what happened when you left school, when you left secondary school.

In Industry

Glazer:

You have to understand that I was so bad at school, in Britain we have exams O-levels and then so-called A-Levels which you have to pass before you can go to university. I took 7 subjects in O-level. I failed physics and had to re-sit it and then I did 3 subjects at A-level – chemistry, physics and maths – failed the lot and had to re-sit those. But, in order to re-sit them I had to leave school and I went to work in industry for up to a year. I went for an interview at a company called Elliott Automation in a place called Borehamwood just north of London and I remember very well the guy who became my boss. He interviewed me in the foyer of the building and he just asked me one question. He said: “Do you know Ohm’s Law?” I said: “Yes”, he said: “Ok you start on Monday”. So, on Monday I was working on three top secret projects: the Blue Steel missile, the Verdan computer for the Hawker Hunter jet, and TSR2 and that was it. We were working on really top-secret projects just like that, with no vetting of any kind. That was a very interesting few months. There are lots of stories I could tell you about the mess that the Royal Air Force used to get themselves into in those days, but we don't have time for that.

Whatmore:

Oh dear, that's a pity! You can't give us some examples?

Glazer:

Oh, if you like?

Whatmore:

Go on!

Glazer:

There was a period when the Bloodhound missiles, which were all down the east coast of Britain, started to fail and I remember at Scampton where they were doing the trials sometimes these missiles would go off and then turn around and come back again, which is a bit embarrassing! And they thought it must be something to do with the inertial guidance system and in particular the electronic components in that and I was asked to test some diodes, which were made by Mullard. So, I set up a test rig for these diodes. I forget what I they were called - OA70’s or something - and they failed immediately. So, I bought some more diodes - ran the test again - failed immediately. So, I rang-up Mullard’s and said: “What's going on with these diodes – they’re failing?” and they said: “Why are you using those? Those are not military specification diodes, those are the sort of diodes you might use in stage lighting in the theatre. So, I reported that back and it was traced back to a secretary in the Ministry of Defence, who on ordering those diodes had made a misprint in the typing and all our missiles down the east coast of Britain had been fitted with the wrong diodes. That's pretty much the sort of thing we found all the time.

Whatmore:

That's really that interesting. I know you're primarily interested in crystallography, but that interest in electronics, which would have been started at Elliott Automation, did it spark anything that carried on afterwards?

Glazer:

Yes, in three different ways. The division I was in was airborne computing, so that gave me an interest in flying which I was able to satisfy many years later. But also, the introduction to computing - computers were at the very beginning at that time - so I became aware of computing. Later on, when I went on to become a graduate student I used computers a lot, so that was another benefit. Also instrumentation, because one of the research interests that I’ve for years is not only on crystals per se but how you can do things with crystals and so I had an interest in designing different types of kit to enable me to study the properties of crystals.

Whatmore:

I think we’ll come on to that quite a bit, later-on in this interview

Glazer:

In that way, Elliott Automation was very beneficial. I think I value that very much. Ironically, having failed A Levels - that's what gave me that chance.

Whatmore:

How long were you there at Elliott’s?

Glazer:

It must have been from November until the end of September.

Whatmore:

Not quite a year?

Glazer:

Yeah, not quite a year.

Whatmore:

And you re-took you’re A-levels while you were there?

Glazer:

Yes, I took them in the January while I was there and barely scraped through those – really, only just

Whatmore:

So, what happened then?

Glazer:

In what sense?

Whatmore:

In the sense that you've got your A Levels …

Glazer:

I carried on working at Elliott’s

Whatmore:

Until …

Glazer:

I applied for university.

Whatmore:

Right.

To University at Dundee

Glazer:

I was turned down by every university in the country - even on General degrees as opposed to Honours degrees! I wasn’t able to get in anywhere. Eventually, I got an offer from St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, in particular in Dundee, which at that time was Queen's College - part of St Andrews - and I went up there. At that time in Scotland they had a four-year degree, as opposed to a three-year degree, because the first year was done at a lower level than elsewhere and for the first time St. Andrew’s decided that English students could take the first-year examination to see if they could go straight into the second year, and miss the first year - as an experiment. So I took that. There were only two students who did that - in chemistry, this was. I originally applied for chemistry - and I passed and so I went straight into the second year. So suddenly, from being at the bottom of the class I suddenly found myself as a different category of person.

Whatmore:

How did how did you achieve that?

Glazer:

Well, I’ll tell you a story. Not only was there an exam - which was quite straightforward - but it involved an interview. I remember appearing before the committee and they asked me to tell them about aluminium and I immediately told them the whole history of aluminium - how it is made and where it is found and all that. And how did I know that? On the week before I'd been to the Science Museum in London and been to a lecture on aluminium!

Whatmore:

Well, that was a nice coincidence!

Glazer:

How about that! That’s how you make your way, by luck and blundering!

Whatmore:

Or perhaps just by being naturally curious and going to things that you find interesting.

Glazer:

Well, it just gives you the idea of how bad I was at school. I’m probably the only Oxford professor who has failed A-levels!

Whatmore:

Well, I think that's a great encouragement, perhaps, to people who don't get the A-levels they expect.

Glazer:

When I was at school, it was interesting because we were divided into streams - A, B and C. At one stage they put me down to the C class because I was so bad. But I found myself near the top of the C class and that made a difference because it enabled me to pass the exams - more or less - but that class had all sorts of “dregs” of the school including a young child Saatchi (of Saatchi and Saatchi) and he was at the very bottom of the class!

Whatmore:

That's interesting! Ok. So, your time in Dundee - would you like to tell us something about your undergraduate studies?

Glazer:

Ok. So it was a degree in chemistry. Dundee at that time was a really impoverished place. It was a hole, to be quite honest. There was a lot of poverty - people sleeping out in the streets - filthy dirty in many places and nothing much to do - hardly anywhere to go and eat unless you like to drink lots of beer. There was plenty of that but there was nothing really you could do. So, I was in digs in a house in Hilltown, which was the slum district of Dundee. So I lived in the very worst part - a really bad place and I spent three years which I enjoyed, funnily enough. It meant that, after being in the university all day, I'd nothing to do but to go back and type up all my notes and so all my chemistry notes were carefully typed-up and because of my artistic interests I’d draw lots of nice diagrams. I still have all my notes. I could go back today and reread them and re-learn everything if I wanted, and that's what really did it for me. So, when it came to the final year examinations I didn't have to do any revision. I already knew it and so I did quite well in the final year. I had done a few projects - one of them with a crystallographer there. That got me interested in crystallography.

Whatmore:

Who was that?

Glazer:

Gentleman called John Iball. I did a project with him and I did my first x-ray work on crystals. When it came to the end of my period there, I wanted to continue doing research in crystallography. He recommended me to go to London to work with Kathleen Lonsdale at University College London. So, I applied there, and she invited me down for interview.

Whatmore:

So you had a happy time really in Dundee

Glazer:

Oh yes! I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Whatmore:

And then you went back home to London?

Glazer:

That’s right. You know, before I went to Dundee, I had literally never been north of Watford. To me, anything north of Watford was “The North”!

Post-Graduate Research with Kathleen Lonsdale

Whatmore:

So, you joined Kathleen Lonsdale’s group. What did she have you doing for your PhD?

Glazer:

Well, I began in the October of 1965.

Whatmore:

Were you aware Kathleen Lonsdale’s fame as a crystallographer at the time?

Glazer:

Not really. I remember going there to meet her. I was quite shocked at this very small woman, very very bony, thin woman who looked like she’d come out of a concentration camp - with a huge mop of white hair and a bright red nose because she had a cold - but she was charming. We had a long discussion about crystals in general and I came away really very impressed with this little woman who was so powerful. She looked like you could knock her over with a feather - but I soon learnt she was really, really tough! I did have the choice between that - working with her - or coming to Oxford to work with Dorothy Hodgkin which would've been on a biological problem. I was more interested in the physical properties of crystals, so I decided in favour of Kathleen Lonsdale.

Whatmore:

And she had you doing what?

Glazer:

When we started in the October of that year, she gave me a project to work on mixed organic crystals – and that was it. She didn't give me any ideas what else to do and so-on and the only other thing she did was she suggested that I and a colleague Howard Flack to go to Birkbeck College nearby and attend evening classes on crystallography. And that was really very good because we learnt a lot from that. But for several months, I didn't really have a defined project. I didn't know what to work on. I just had this idea of something to do with mixed organic crystals and I was kind-of left with that, to be honest. By around June I came across a system that looked like it could be “do-able” and I started to grow these crystals and sure enough it turned out to be a system that I could work with. You know, these were mixed organic crystals of no use to anybody at all but had some interesting properties and I was able to develop lots of different techniques for studying those.

Whatmore:

Right, so what sort of properties?

Glazer:

Optical properties, X-rays, of course, mechanical properties.

Whatmore:

Right …

Glazer:

And using my interests in instrumentation I built all kinds of rigs to do that. I built a new crystal growing apparatus, I built systems for measuring the birefringence of crystals - which is something I still do – and so I was able to write some papers. My first two papers are in Nature - as a student!

Whatmore:

Right, and what exactly were the materials?

Glazer:

Phenazine and n-oxyphenazine. The interesting thing about it was that n-oxyphenazine has these aromatic rings and an oxygen atom on one side, but the crystals are disordered so in the average structure you see half an oxygen on one side and half an oxygen on the other side. What you've actually got is these molecules rotated upside down like this – like in a stack. With the x-ray diffraction you see the average structure and so you see a disordered oxygen arrangement and that was accompanied by diffuse scattering. This introduced me to diffuse scattering as opposed to normal Bragg scattering. And I was very lucky because the other person who was sitting at the desk next to me was Howard Flack who was working on anthrone and anthroquinone which had exactly the same properties. Howard was much better than I was, mathematically, and he worked out a whole theory for the diffuse scattering and I was able to apply that to my own system. And in 1968, when we both finished our PhD’s, we both wrote some papers – he wrote three and I wrote three – and they were all bundled together in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society – all our work from the theses. We were very fortunate that we both met each other working on the same sort of problem.

Whatmore:

Right, very good! Are you still in touch?

Glazer:

He died last year, sadly.

Whatmore:

That’s sad. But did you keep in touch?

Glazer:

Oh, yes, there’s a whole story about that, if you want.

Whatmore:

(Nods).

Glazer:

Sure. Ok. Kathleen Lonsdale … In 1966 we had the International Union of Crystallography meeting in Moscow. Kathleen Lonsdale said we should go to that, so she arranged for us to fly out there with her on the ‘plane. She said she would pay all our expenses in Moscow because she had money in the Soviet Union - royalties from books that she’d written that were published in the Soviet Union that she couldn’t take out. So I remember that we went in the ‘plane and we arrived in Moscow and landed at the wrong airport. The party under Professor Zhdanov that was supposed to meet us was waiting at Sheremetyevo Airport and we had landed at Vnukovo Airport on the other side of Moscow. So, we then had to wait, I remember, for them to come across Moscow to meet us. We did that, and then we got in some cars. Howard and I were in one car, with an interpreter – I remember his name to this day. The name was Valeri Demidov and he asked lots of questions about what it was like in England – did we have lighting in the side streets, for example – in Moscow, they didn’t! - and things like that. Then he taught us a load of Russian swear-words. After that, Howard and I always used to communicate - by email or whatever – signing off with Russian swear-words!

Whatmore:

(Laughter) Very good!! So, you completed your PhD. What happened after that?

Glazer:

After that, I went to Harvard for a year – in the Chemistry Department – R.B. Woodward’s Department – the Nobel Prizewinner.

Whatmore:

Was he a contact of Kathleen Lonsdale’s?

Glazer:

No, not directly.

Whatmore:

How did you make that contact?

Glazer:

I don’t know. She recommended it, but I don’t know quite how she got to that point.

Whatmore:

Ok, but it was a recommendation through Kathleen Lonsdale?

Post-Doctoral Research at Cambridge with Helen Megaw

Glazer:

Oh yes, it came from Kathleen Lonsdale. I worked for a Professor Jack Gougoutas there, who had some students and they were working on some organic crystals that tended to explode! But if you let them explode slowly, you could see them transform from one phase to another. They were studying the structure before and the structure afterwards. And so I worked on that with them for a year. Then in 1969 – the following year – there was another International Congress in Stoneybrook in the USA and I went to that. There I was contacted by Helen Megaw from Cambridge. Now, Helen had been speaking to Kathleen Lonsdale – she needed a post-doc and Kathleen Lonsdale had recommended me to her. So she tracked me down at the meeting and tried to persuade me to come and work with her in Cambridge. But, Helen was working on inorganic materials, and that time my interests were organic. I didn’t think I could handle inorganic materials, they seemed to me to be much too difficult! But, she kept coming back to me – persuading and persuading and persuading me. I had an appointment elsewhere in the United States if I wanted it, and so it was a question - do I stay in the United States or do I go back to Britain? It was Cambridge after all – and I plumped for working with Helen. And that’s what started me then in a totally different area – inorganic crystals and their physical properties.

Whatmore:

Very good, very good. So, you moved to Cambridge and how did that go when you first moved?

Glazer:

Err – how did it go? It was fine. I enjoyed it.

Whatmore:

So, what year are we up to now?

Glazer:

1969. In fact, Howard Flack had already moved to Cambridge himself and so I caught up with him again. I remember I shared a house with him for a few months while I was waiting to get our own house in Cambridge. It was an old house and it had no heating. Howard discovered that the slot machine for the gas meter – you put a coin in at the top to get so many hours of gas for heating the house. He discovered that if you took the bottom out, the coin fell all the way through, so you could put it in at the top again to get essentially infinite gas. So, we used to heat up the oven in the kitchen and open the doors and let the heat drift up through the house. That was how we heated ourselves in those days! So, that was Howard then!

Whatmore:

So, you were based at what was the old Cavendish Laboratory?

Glazer:

It was the old Cavendish Laboratory, yes.

Whatmore:

And what did Helen ask you to do?

Glazer:

She was interested in a material called sodium niobate, which she’d been working on for several years. It has a very complicated series of phase transitions at high temperature and she had mapped-out quite an interesting plan of what they are and that turned out eventually to be pretty well spot-on. She needed someone to set up a suitable X-ray system that worked at high temperature to plot-out these phases. And so, I designed this system based on what we call a Weissenberg camera. In those days everything was based on film techniques, unlike today, in which we had a little furnace and a crystal mounted on a tiny thermocouple inside the furnace and then we shone X-rays through it. Around that we had a cylindrical film and a bit of electronics to ramp-up the temperature and at the same time to give a signal to move the camera forward a little bit and record the diffraction pattern at high temperatures. In that way we could map-out what the Bragg spots were doing as a function of temperature. You could literally see a phase diagram in front of you on the film when it was developed.

Whatmore:

So, sodium niobate’s a very interesting material – and very topical of course – and it links in very nicely with another eminent scientist / engineer – the late Professor Eric Cross and one of the other interviews for the IEEE where he talks about some of his earliest work on the antiferroelectric properties of sodium niobate. Did you have any contact with that?

Glazer:

Not at that time, but much later, of course I knew Eric very well when he was at Penn State. We were good friends.

Whatmore:

Did Helen know Eric Cross?

Glazer:

I think Helen worked with Eric at one stage.

Whatmore:

So, it’s a small world!

Glazer:

Yes, it’s a small world. Helen was a very interesting person. She came from a very distinguished Northern Irish family. Her brother was Lord Justice in the Court of Appeal. Her father had been Lord Justice of Northern Ireland and she had another brother who, I think, was in the church and another one who was a doctor and a sister who had done nothing and as a result of that the father had nothing to do with the sister! So, Helen had to look after the sister.

Whatmore:

Right!

Glazer:

It was that kind of family – very Northern Irish family. Helen and I often disagreed politically but we were very good friends and I had enormous respect for her. She was a real crystallographer. She knew her stuff! So, for me, working with her was a real eye-opener. I have no regrets about that whatsoever. So I have been very fortunate in my time to work under two very, very eminent, excellent crystallographer women. And that’s when I met you!

Whatmore:

(Laughs) We’ll come onto that, no doubt. So, sodium niobate – you were working at the time with Maijer Ahtee, weren’t you?

Glazer:

Yes, Majia from Finland – she’d come over and we did some work on potassium niobate mixed with sodium niobate and we did some papers on a potential phase diagram, which has more-or-less stood the test of time, I think, with modifications. You have to remember that at the time we were working the equipment was rather poor, there were no real computers available. Calculators were only just beginning to come in so everything in the way of calculations had to be done by hand.

Whatmore:

Absolutely. It’s interesting when you mention these materials potassium niobate and sodium niobate – we’re talking now 50-odd years on, and they’re still highly topical for applications. Did you have any idea back then that these materials would have applications? Was this something that you, having spent time in Elliott that you were even thinking about at that time – the applications of the materials that you were looking at?

Glazer:

I didn’t have much idea of applications at that time. Having come from an organic chemistry background as a crystallographer my prime interest was crystallography. The fact that they had (useful) properties was kind-of incidental.

Glazer:

So, I had to learn a lot about that. I didn’t know anything about ferroelectrics before I started this business. I’d never heard of it!

Whatmore:

That’s interesting!

Glazer:

It’s only when I started working with Helen that I had to learn about these things, so I discovered things that I didn’t know that I learned from Helen. And occasionally it went the other way. I was able to tell Helen a few things that she didn’t know. It was very much a two-way partnership. So that’s why it worked so well, in spite of our political differences!

Whatmore:

(General laughter) OK! So, at that time, if you were also learning about ferroelectricity you must have started to attend some of the ferroelectrics conferences, did you?

Glazer:

Yes, yes.

Whatmore:

And did you start to make contact with the applications people at that point?

Glazer:

Yes, actually, it goes back to you, I’m afraid. It’s all your fault because you were my first research student.

Whatmore:

Yes.

Glazer:

You came to me one day. You were dissatisfied with your supervisor.

Whatmore:

As an undergraduate, yes.

Glazer:

Yes, as an undergraduate, so you came to me (for some reason). I think you were recommended.

Whatmore:

Yes, by Dr Mike Bown at Clare College, who was my Director of Studies.

Glazer:

And we got on quite well.

Whatmore:

Yes, we did.

Glazer:

And when it came to PhD time for you, I took you on as a PhD student – you were my first PhD student. And that was linked with a commercial company – the Plessey company.

Whatmore:

I should say that I was delighted to get you as an undergraduate supervisor. You’re a really, really excellent teacher and your work on sodium niobate gave me a link into a project I did as an undergraduate on the mineral lueshite ,which is a naturally-occurring form of sodium niobate – so that was a very nice link. So, your links to industry really started with that link with what was then the Plessey Company at that time. How did that come about?

Glazer:

It came through Helen, who knew Frank Ainger at Plessey’s Allen Clark Research Centre – at Caswell - and suggested that there could be a commercial linkage.

Whatmore:

Did she introduce you?

Glazer:

I can’t remember to be honest. I can’t remember how that came about. We had established something called a CASE studentship.

Whatmore:

That was in the very early days of CASE. In fact – in those days it was called CAPS (Combined Award in Physical Sciences) and then it changed to CASE (Combined Award in Science and Engineering) in 1973 just as I started on the studentship.

Glazer:

Anyway, we had that project and you were the student employed on that and it enabled you to do research in the Cavendish, but also to spend time at Plessey.

Whatmore:

That’s right.

Glazer:

And that gave you the “in” to the more applied side of the subject.

Whatmore:

And one of your early papers on the applications side of ferroelectrics was a collaboration with Frank Ainger and Frank Ainger’s group at Plessey.

Glazer:

On pyroelectrics.

Whatmore:

Yes, pyroelectric effects in lead zirconate titanate. So, was that your first encounter with lead zirconate titanate as a material?

Glazer:

Yes, I think so. That idea of working on PZT came from Caswell, in fact.

Whatmore:

I remember in those days that Helen had been fascinated by lead zirconate and the phase transitions in lead zirconate, and she was very sceptical about a particular phase that is still published in many of the phase diagrams, which show an antiferroelectric tetragonal phase between the antiferroelectric, orthorhombic phase and the cubic phase, but in fact that phase does not exist, as we showed.

Glazer:

Lead zirconate was in fact the first recorded antiferroelectric.

Whatmore:

So that was your first move into PZT, but before that there was a transitionary period, wasn’t there, from a personal point of view? Because, you were a post-doc with Helen …

Glazer:

I was a post-doc for, I don’t remember, two years maybe, and then she reapplied and eventually got another grant, but there was a short period of about three months when I was unemployed. I remember I went to the labour exchange to get “dole” money to tide myself over, and they sent me to London to the “executive” branch of the labour exchange. I remember going there and, unlike the “sawdust on the floor” that they had at the local labour exchange, this was carpeted and with armchairs. I went there, and I was interviewed, and they said to me “What do you do?”, and I said: “I’m a crystallographer”. So, the guy turns around and he goes into his filing cabinet and he says “Oh, we don’t have any jobs for crystallographers at the moment, so we’ll give you some money instead”.

Wolfson Grant Holder

Whatmore:

So, your second post-doc with Helen came to an end. Would you like to tell us something about how you became a Wolfson Grant holder? Tell us how that happened.

Glazer:

Well, the grants were coming to an end and Helen was not far off retirement, so I needed to do something. The Wolfson Foundation advertised for applications for funds – particularly for applied research. So, I wrote an application – something about research into dielectric materials and I was the only one who got it. This had a certain benefit. Not only was it a lot of money (for its time) but it gave me a certain independence within the Cavendish Lab. There was a lot of problems with the Head of Department at the time – he wanted to get rid of the crystallographers from the Cavendish. I had to fight a lot of battles to stay there and the Wolfson Foundation grant came through and it meant essentially that I could put two fingers up to the Head of Department!

Whatmore:

(Laughs) Yes, I remember that Head of Department (Prof Brian Pippard) once talking to me – as a first year PhD student, mind – and in the corridor saying that “Crystallography has no place in the Cavendish Laboratory!”

Glazer:

Yes, that’s right!

Whatmore:

Which is quite a thing to say, firstly to such a junior person in the lab, and secondly about the group that was founded by Bragg! Can you imagine that?

Glazer:

I could see where he was coming from, because to be quite honest, Helen’s interests were more mineralogy than physics. She was interested in feldspars and her interests in the perovskites came as they were minerals. So, I could see that, but there I was trying to establish a physics approach, but I didn’t have a permanent position, so I was in a weak position until I got the Wolfson Grant, which came to my rescue and then they wanted me to stay. It was a lot of money at the time, but then we had the big oil crisis and the value of that suddenly plunged and so we weren’t able to spend it and buy as much as we wanted to for the project, but nevertheless it lasted about five years until I came to Oxford with it. That was a very useful bit of money to have. It enabled me to be independent and essentially to take over the crystallography laboratory at the Cavendish.

Whatmore:

So really the Wolfson grant enabled you, for the first time, to be your own researcher, to establish your own group with your own research agenda. Would you like to tell us, for the record as were, what your own thoughts were about that research agenda and what it ought to be?

Glazer:

You have to understand that I am primarily an academic scientist. I believe in doing fundamental research not necessarily with any applications in mind. But I also have the view that one should always be aware of the possible applications of what you do, and that’s something I’ve played on in my career. Whenever I’ve done some research, I’ve always asked myself, is this of-use anywhere? So, I’ve had that side of me as well – I’m interested in applying some of the things that I have looked at, but it comes from an interest in the fundamental science first. That’s what dominates and the properties and use of those properties is either something I want to pursue myself or at least to hand-on to people. I’m essentially an academic scientist when it comes down to it.

Whatmore:

But, that fits in well with the Wolfson ethos. So, as I remember the group, it started off and there was Roy Clarke as the post-doc and I was the PhD student, and we started to grow. So there was Abdul Mabud …

Glazer:

Oh, yes – from Bangladesh

Whatmore:

And we had Nayeem Jan

Glazer:

Oh, yes – from Trinidad

Whatmore:

Dirce Guimares

Glazer:

From Portugal – and a few others, I can’t quite remember

Whatmore:

People gradually started to join the group so it built-up. In 1976 you moved to Oxford, but would you like to say what you felt were the main achievements during that time in Cambridge from 1973 up to 1976?

Octahedral Tilting in Perovskites

Glazer - tilting.jpg

Glazer:

I think we established ourselves as one of the leading crystallography groups working on ferroelectric and related materials at the time. Whereas most people looking at ferroelectrics at the time were looking at dielectrics and those sorts of properties, there were not that many looking at the crystallography. That was really where we positioned ourselves. And one of the things that I’m probably best known for happened in that time, or just in advance of it, which was the work on the tilting of octahedra.

Whatmore:

Which was published in 1972 …

Glazer:

That’s right – 1972.

Whatmore:

So, that was just coming to the end of your time as a post-doc with Helen?

Whatmore:

That is your most-highly cited paper – on the Glazer tilting notation. It is very well known indeed. So much so that, to those working in perovskites and related systems, it has become a term like the “Hoover”. We all talk about it without even thinking about where it originated.

Glazer:

Yes, so well-known that nobody refers to the original paper anymore, so your citations go down!

Whatmore:

There’s a tale there as well isn’t there? Perhaps we’ll get to it later. Anyway, tell us how the Glazer tilting system came about.

Glazer:

Well, there had been someone working with Helen before I came there - a Canadian I think it was – a student there Jim Blandford. He was working on pyroniobates. He’d been looking at tilting of octahedra in them, and also Helen was interested in the tilting of octahedra as well, particularly in materials like lithium niobate. I remember discussing with her that in lithum niobate, if you rotate the octahedra it causes the octahedra to change shape. She was able to prove that yes, there’s a link between the shape or the flattening of the octahedra and the angle of tilt. And so, I’d seen this work that Blandford had done, and I suddenly an idea – why not try to generalize all these ideas into a three-dimensional structure? I took a very simple approach. Why not divide the structure up into three perpendicular axes and consider the rotation of the octahedra about each axis in turn? And as you go along each axis, each successive octahedron – are they in-phase when they tilt, or are they out-of-phase? In this way I could generate 10 different models and when I applied the idea of how big those tilt angles were, I came-up with 23 different possibilities and I developed a notation which is the notation that’s used today. Work done much later has whittled the number down to 15 unique structures when you take symmetry into account, but that was something we didn’t realise at the time. That’s the original work. It was a purely academic exercise. There’s a story I can tell here. I’ve told it many times before but I can tell it again. When I sent it in for publication at Acta Crystallographica, I got back the referee’s report – about 6 or 7 closely-typed pages of comments tearing my paper apart. I was very angry – very annoyed after all the work I’d done. So, I went to Helen with it and showed her the referee’s report and telling her what this lousy referee was doing and so-on. She calmed me down. She sat me down next to her and said “Look I’ll help you with this, see if we can sort it out”. So, she gave me some ideas and I re-wrote the paper, and it was a better paper as a result. I sent it back in again, and again I got a referee’s report back – this time with three typewritten pages of comments. Again, I went to Helen in a temper and again she settled me down, made a few suggestions and I resubmitted it and that was the paper that was published. And it was after she retired that she told me that she had been the referee!!

Whatmore:

(Laughing) That’s brilliant!! I love that story, Mike!

Glazer:

I’ve told it many times.

Whatmore:

But it doesn’t spoil with the retelling.

Glazer:

It tells you something about Helen.

Whatmore:

It does, really.

Glazer:

She was an honest person.

Whatmore:

But also very generous. You published that paper as a sole-author.

Glazer:

Yes.

Whatmore:

It’s an interesting case, really, where Helen as your post-doctoral supervisor didn’t ask to be a co-author – I can think of many examples where the post-doctoral supervisor would insist upon being a co-author, especially having done so much work with you on it.

Glazer:

Helen wasn’t like that, Kathleen Lonsdale wasn’t like that. She didn’t insist on being involved in any of my publications. That was the style of people in those days. I think there wasn’t quite the pressures that there are today to have publications. Today everybody wants to have publications as a part of their career.

Whatmore:

It’s a part of the “currency”.

Glazer:

I think people were more honest in those days

Whatmore:

I remember when I came to you with my first paper and you said you didn’t want your name on it, and I said: “But I want your name on it!”.

Glazer:

I had a Chinese visitor once here in Oxford and she did some nice work. She did all the work and I just helped her with the publication of it. I didn’t put my name on it because I hadn’t done the work. She burst into tears and she never forgave me.

Whatmore:

Really? Did she put your name on it in the end?

Glazer:

No, because I insisted. Even though it was good work, but she never forgave me.

Whatmore:

That is an interesting story, I think of the time. It was a gentler time, I think.

Glazer:

Yes it was.

Whatmore:

When people were more intellectually honest, perhaps, than they are now.

Glazer:

I think that’s probably true. Times are very different now, with the pressure to get funds, pressure to publish and all of these things. It’s much more of a rat-race than it was in those days. You know, in those days, if you applied to the research councils for money, there was a good chance you were going to get a large part of it, if not all of it. Today, it’s all or nothing, you either get funded or you don’t. I think that’s very destructive.

Whatmore:

Was anyone else working on the octahedral tilting systems in perovskites at the same time as you were?

Glazer:

There was Kyril Alexandrov - from the Siberian Academy of Sciences in Krasnoyask. I discovered that he had published the same tilt systems as I had, and got the same results as I did using a different notation, but he published it a few years after I did. As far as I can see, that was an independent discovery of the same thing.

Whatmore:

And you say he was a good friend?

Glazer:

Oh, yes. We were very good friends, yes. Yes, we used to meet at conferences and chat about it. And Kyril went much further. He was an expert in inorganic materials and developed all sorts of other interesting things about perovskites and related materials.

Whatmore:

Right. Somebody else I remember you had a very good relationship was Gerry Burns.

Glazer:

Yes, yes. Perhaps we should mention Gerry, that’s right. Now, Gerry was from IBM at Yorktown Heights in the USA. He was a Raman spectroscopist. How that happened was, I was attending the Ferroelectrics meeting in Edinburgh and we got chatting – I can’t remember why, but we were. I was working in Cambridge at the time, and he said he was coming down to Cambridge and he would like to call-in on me. So, when I got back, he came to see me. He said that when he came over from the States, he’d been reading this paper and he couldn’t understand what it was about, and could I help him. It turned out to be my “tilts” paper.

Whatmore:

Oh, right ... OK!

Glazer:

He hadn’t realized that I was the author.

Whatmore:

I remember Gerry coming to Cambridge, because I remember meeting him there – he tried to convince me to start working on Raman spectroscopy!

Glazer:

Well, he came a few times. The first time after the Edinburgh Ferroelectrics meeting. Did you come to that meeting?

Whatmore:

No, no, it was before my time.

Glazer:

What I remember about that meeting was that I arrived there to give my talk and I’d forgotten my slides, and was up all night making slides! Anyway, he came to see me in Cambridge with this paper that he wanted explaining, and what he didn’t understand really was all the space-group stuff! I explained a bit about that, and he said: “You know, this business of space groups is something that physicists in spectroscopy and related subjects know very little about, and really it would be nice to write a book explaining how the International Tables works for non-crystallographers.” That’s what started us on the book Space Groups for Solid State Scientists, which is now in its third edition.

Whatmore:

Right.

Glazer:

So, Gerry and I worked on that and I helped him with some of his other books. In the end, we were going to write another book, more recently, but unfortunately, he died before we could do that. Gerry was an interesting character – very clever – but the problem was that he couldn’t spell! So, it was very difficult to write a book with him because every time he would edit something it would be full of spelling mistakes. I’d correct them and send them back to him, and then it would come back with more spelling mistakes and so in the end I had to shout at him and say: “Gerry, leave it alone, stop correcting it!”. (Laughter) We were very good friends and I was very sad when he died – I was very sorry about that.

Whatmore:

Can you give us a summary of what you feel that your description of octahedral tilting in perovskites has given to the subject?

Glazer:

OK, well originally, as I said it was an academic exercise – pure geometry, thoroughly enjoyable – do it, and it’s done! It’s only in recent years, you start to realise that, actually, it has importance – practical importance. Because, today, perovskites are in-fashion. The real interest in many of the perovskite applications is due to the tilting of the octahedra, because you can modify the tilting and change the physical properties, particularly if you are growing thin films on substrates. So, by tuning your substrate to a particular strain you can change the configuration of the tilts and thus generate a different type of structure, and if you have a different type of structure you have different properties. So, there are lots of areas like that now, where if you look at papers on perovskites – and there are thousands of those, I think did I work out two years ago that there are a 170,000 publications in the year, something like that! – when I started there were about 12 a year – and if you look at those papers a lot of them, all of them, involve something to do with the tilting of the octahedra. It’s become an essential part of understanding the properties and how to do what we call “crystal engineering” - to modify a crystal structure in order to get a particular property. That was something I never imagined back in those days. As I said, it was an academic exercise and it’s something that’s just grown over the last few years. And the result is that for a while my citations went up, and now they’re going down again because nobody quotes the original paper anymore! (Laughing)

Whatmore:

(Laughing) Yes, I took someone to task who had published a paper recently in Nature for using your tilting system notation without citing the original paper.

Glazer:

(Laughing) Yes, you complained, didn’t you!

Whatmore:

Yes, I sprang to your defence! They apologised but said that the notation was so well known now – it is in lots of textbooks - that everyone did the same and that anyway he was restricted in the number of citations he could make. I still think it’s terribly unfair!

Glazer:

So that was a bit of luck, really, it was only many years later that it became important.

Whatmore:

Well, don’t you take the view that, as Jack Nicklaus once said when I young golfer congratulated him and said “Gosh, that was a lucky shot you just made” and he said: “Well, it’s funny but the more I practice, the luckier I seem to get” – don’t you think there’s a truth in that?

Glazer:

Maybe, maybe.

Whatmore:

You said you were immersed in crystallography from a very early age.

Glazer:

One of my heroes was Louis Pasteur. At the age of 11, I read his biography. There was a children’s book on him – I remember I read it many times. He said something about having a “prepared mind”.

Whatmore:

I think that’s absolutely right.

Glazer:

You keep doing your research and you have to ask yourself: “Am I doing this in a vacuum, or is there something important here – could this be important?” Now, sometimes you can see it, other times you can’t. In the tilting system case, I couldn’t see any importance in that. It was just a nice bit of crystallography as far as I was concerned. That came later. But, there were other areas of research where I could see an application that it could be useful, so you have got to have that sort of mindset to jump onto something that has potential. And then maybe even change course as a result of that, which is what I have tended to do.

Synchrotron Radiation for X-ray Diffraction

Whatmore:

So, Mike, synchrotron radiation - you got involved in the very early days of the use of the radiation that came off the synchrotron at Daresbury and as I remember, it wasn't actually originally set up as a light source.

Glazer:

No, no - it was a high energy source

Whatmore:

High energy electrons.

Glazer:

Right – high energy electrons only the radiation was just parasitic. People were not really interested in it – it was a nuisance for them. I was at the Cavendish at the time - I guess it must have been about 1973-74, or something like that, and I was approached by one of the students who was leaving to work at Daresbury. He told me about the synchrotron radiation - did I have any ideas about what we could do? So I thought about it, him having told me about the characteristics of it, and I came up with the first idea. This was: well this is a white beam of X-rays, in other words it’s polychromatic, but it's also very, very parallel unlike conventional x-ray sources. I thought: what if you put a crystal in the beam and then a photograph plate behind the crystal and look at the projection of the spots – the Bragg spots - on the film? Each spot should show you the macrostructure of the crystal - domains and dislocation effects and so-on – which we call topography. Today, we call it white beam topography. So, I had that idea, and I went to Daresbury with Joan Bordas – his name was Joan Bordas ...

Whatmore:

I remember Joan Bordas ...

Glazer:

We went up there – he was working at Daresbury at the time and did the first experiment. I was more interested in what we could do with this idea than I was in actually doing it. The idea was to take a crystal of barium titanate and I brought little furnace for it and heat up the barium titanate taking these topographs as a function of temperature. We did that, and we wrote it up for publication, which was accepted immediately in Phil Mag, but at the same time two other people came up with the idea of white beam topography. One was Mike Hart, working also at Daresbury, but we didn't realise it – he came up with it independently and a group in Finland did it on silicon and we all published around the same time. So independently we came up with the same idea. It turns out that the idea’s even older because Wooster had done this back in 1930-something - published it in Nature – but they didn't really have a parallel beam to really do it properly. So, like all these things. If you have an idea you can be pretty sure ...

Whatmore:

Somebody else's had it before, right ...

Glazer:

So that was where we started and then I started to think about powder diffraction on the synchrotron, using the particular characteristics of the beam. The first thing we played-around with was energy dispersive detection, where you get a spectrum – an energy spectrum of the diffraction pattern using a solid-state detector. It’s a very low-resolution device, but you can still see peaks. In those days all we had was a room with a beam pipe and nothing else, so all the apparatus that we used had to be marshalled together in one way or another, and I remember having this solid state detector sitting on a pile of books in front of the beam, and somehow getting it lined-up - which was really very tricky. We started to experiment and we found we could get some sort of diffraction patterns. In fact, the first one we did was not on a powder but on collagen. I worked out that we could actually measure the intensities from the collagen peaks reasonably well from this rather low-resolution thing. We wrote it for publication – it was published in Nature – got a note about it appeaing in The Times and there was a Royal Society Conversazione, which they made a big splash about, much to my embarrassment, because it really was a trivial experiment. After that, we played around with powders and we did some of the first powder diffraction experiments of different sorts. We teamed-up with a group (run by Bronisław Buras) in Denmark working at DESY in Germany and did some more powder diffraction and that time crystallographers were not interested in it and so I was the only one going around promulgating this idea. The other people at the time I knew-of who were working with synchrotron radiation was at Daresbury, with a group who were working under Hugh Huxley looking at muscle, but they were getting nowhere with it, I think partly because they didn't really take on board properly the characteristics of synchrotron radiation. They were trying to use techniques you would use with conventional sources, I think. Anyway, so I used to give talks at conferences about synchrotron radiation. I'd be the only one talking about it at the time for several years. Of course, it's all changed now, especially with protein crystallography. The real justification for building all these synchrotron sources has always been the biology side. The materials science always followed on after.

Whatmore:

I found the synchrotron radiation stuff fascinating, especially the topography stuff – that was very clever

Glazer:

I was involved in the early work but again, typical me, I fell out with it in the end because I didn't like it when it started to become official and you had to put in applications and do all the formal things and so-on. I got fed up with that.

Whatmore:

(Laughing) Yes, I know the feeling!

Glazer:

That’s typically me!

Whatmore:

So, we’ve talked a little bit about your interests in PZT and perhaps we’ll come back to that later on because if we look at your publications it’s been an enduring interest for you since 1973, so that’s what – over 50 years? – so we’ll come back to your current research interests and how they’ve built on your old interests. Before we leave Cambridge, let’s just touch on something completely different. I remember you building a boat in Cambridge. What was that all about?

Interests in Sailing

Glazer:

I decided that I fancied doing a bit of sailing. I knew nothing about it. And you could buy a kit called the “Mirror Dinghy” – a thing promoted by the Daily Mirror (newspaper). It was not expensive. I built this dinghy, literally from scratch. It was great fun – we used to take it out on the river – the River Ouse. We had a lot of fun sailing up and down the river. I got struck by lightning once!

Whatmore:

Really?

Glazer:

Oh, yeah, I was with my brother and we were in the middle of the river and suddenly a thunderstorm started. People on the shore saw a flash, and it bounced off me into the water. I remember everything going green and pink, and because I was so wet in the rain it (the electricity) had just gone round the outside. I hardly felt anything.

Whatmore:

So, you were in your own Faraday cage!

Glazer:

Exactly! It was a bit of luck!

Whatmore:

Indeed!

Glazer:

Well, we did that for a few years and when I came to Oxford, I brought the dinghy to Oxford, but there wasn’t really anywhere suitable, apart from a reservoir, so I got fed-up with that.

Move to Oxford University

Whatmore:

So, you moved to Oxford in 1976. Would you like to tell us how that happened? I seem to remember an interview in Manchester about the same time, and a bout of ‘flu.

Glazer:

Yes, that’s right. Well I was looking for a permanent position, I was looking for a job. I was under pressure from the Head of Department in the Cavendish to get out. I had a lot upsetting incidents with that – just managing to keep ahead of him – but I needed to find somewhere more permanent. There was a job advertised – in the Chemistry Department, actually – at UMIST (the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) and so I was invited up to give a talk. I remember that there were 6 people giving talks and we each sat through each other’s’ talks. On the basis of that they chose three for further interview and I was one of the three. The interview was going to be in the January of that year and we were going to be in Spain on holiday and I went down with a really intense case of the ‘flu. I had to fly back for the interview. I got on the train to go from Cambridge to Manchester and I was in such a bad state I ended up in the wrong place – I ended up in Wolverhampton instead of Manchester. I got to the Manchester interview late. They invited me in and sat me down in front of nine people and gave me a cup of tea – which was the wrong thing to give me because I was immediately over-heated! I couldn’t answer a thing – I was completely wasted. As a result, I didn’t get the job, which was a pity because the lead man there, Durward Cruikshank – who I think was Vice Chancellor at the time – wanted me to come there, but I was a waste of space when it came to the interview. So that didn’t work!

Whatmore:

Well, I have to say that, at the time, I was really quite pleased because you’d asked me if I would go to Manchester with you.

Glazer:

Did I? I can’t remember.

Whatmore:

And I really didn’t want to go, so I was quite pleased you didn’t get that job!

Glazer:

(Laughing) Yes, so that was that! It was a little later than that that Oxford advertised, and they were actually looking for someone in the crystal materials area within the Physics Department, which was unusual at that time. Unlike Cambridge’s view of crystallography, they actually wanted somebody in this field so I applied for that. Now, Kathleen Lonsdale was dead by this time, but before she died she wrote references for her favourite students and in my case, she had deposited her reference for me in Cambridge. So, when I applied to Oxford, I was able to ask them to get the reference from Cambridge. That was pretty remarkable. She was on her death bed when she wrote these references.

Whatmore:

Wow!

Glazer:

She was a wonderful woman.

Whatmore:

Indeed! So, you were appointed to a lectureship in Oxford University

Glazer:

It’s a double thing – here in Oxford you have joint appointments between colleges and departments. I was appointed as a Lecturer in the department and also as a Fellow and Tutor at Jesus College, Oxford. The effect of this is that you get a higher salary because you are getting paid by two organizations but also the workload is in principal much, much higher than you would normally get. So, I was supposed to do between seven and nine hours contact with students for the department, each week, and the same for the college. That was contact of fourteen to eighteen hours, not counting examinations and all the other things one has to do, which didn’t leave a lot of time for research and it didn’t take me long to rebel against that and just to refuse to do those hours, but that’s another story.

Whatmore:

Is it?

Glazer:

Yes.

Whatmore:

Right, OK.

Glazer:

Well, I can tell you if you want!

Whatmore:

We’ve got time.

Glazer:

Well, this really goes to the college more than anything else. Colleges in Oxford – I was warned about this – they’re so strong compared with the Cambridge colleges – that they take young people – researchers – and land them with all sorts of jobs and things and there’s a tendency to break people as a result of it. I’d been warned about that before I came to Oxford, but I needed the permanent job, and Oxford is very welcoming – much more welcoming than Cambridge, actually by the way. There’s a little bit there I can tell you, and this applies to students. Because I didn’t have a degree from Oxford, Cambridge or Trinity College Dublin, my degree was not recognised by Cambridge, and the result was that my students – you for example – had more rights in the University than I did. And if you may remember, the main source for periodicals was the Cambridge Philosophical Library. I wasn’t allowed in there, I had to send you in there to get the papers. That didn’t happen in Oxford, although officially they had the same rules. Oxford didn’t take that view. So, when I came to Oxford they were much more welcoming than Cambridge were from that point of view.

Whatmore:

So, you were talking about the Oxford system and the workload balance.

Glazer:

So, what I discovered after doing a year of this was that what I was doing was taking four pairs of students each week, and we were simply looking at exactly the same things each time – and repeating it four times. A lot of it was, essentially, giving them a lecture, because they would work problems and then I would go through them four times a week. I thought: “This is ridiculous, I don’t need to do this!”. So I started to take – we had eight students a year – I started to take all of the eight students together in one class and our performance as a college in physics was second-to-none. For many years, we were one of the leading colleges in physics and I demonstrated that in a subject like physics, you don’t need these individual tutorials. It’s extravagant. You need them in the arts subjects, when a student comes in and reads an essay – that I can see is a one-on-one situation – but in a subject like physics, where the students are all working on the same problem sets, it’s pointless. So, ever since then, I was in violation of the college statutes – they could have fired me any time they liked – but our performance was always great so they didn’t bother.

Whatmore:

Right!

Glazer:

It cut down my workload in college enormously. When it came to college jobs, I finally agreed to be tutor for graduates, which was a fairly light load job – I could do that easily – but there were other jobs that they wanted me to do, like Tutor for Admissions, or Senior Tutor, and I refused to do that. I was one of the people who persuaded the college that they should stop all this business of getting their fellows to do these sorts of jobs, that they should hire a person permanently whose job it is to do those things. And, my college being a very forward-thinking college, for example it was one of the first colleges to go mixed, male and female, even though it’s an old college, they agreed to do that. And so, now the Fellows are no longer saddled with these jobs to do.

Whatmore:

So, you started building your group – rebuilding it, really. I know you brought some of the students over with you from Cambridge. Dirce came over with you, didn’t she, Naeem did and Abdul. I was just finished.

Glazer:

And there was one, Richard Brown, who stayed in Cambridge – on paper anyway.

Whatmore:

So, you started building a new group here. What were your research interests? Did you more-or-less carry on from where you were? I remember we had an on-going collaboration with Plessey.

Glazer:

Yes, we got involved with a number of projects with Plessey and other universities. We did a project on surface acoustic wave device materials.

Whatmore:

I remember it well, yes.

Glazer:

That was a lot to do with attempting to find temperature-compensated, high coupling materials. === It was a very difficult project. I think we were reasonably successful with that. We also worked on JOERS (Joint Opto-electronic Research Scheme), that you may remember – again that was about finding new materials , and I think we managed to make some progress on that.

Whatmore:

What one sees from your publication record is a continuing interest in the relationship between crystal structure and physical properties, in birefringence, for example, which runs right through from your very earliest days in UCL. A continuing interest in ferroelectrics, clearly and a continuing interest in – I wouldn’t quite call it “tinkering” – but making stuff – making machines to “do things” for you.

Glazer:

Yes, the continuous recording system that I mentioned before – we did a new version of that – of course we had microprocessors by that time so we got a much “swankier” version of that here that we used for several years. That was one of the first projects that we did, and we built some apparatus for measuring ferroelectric hysteresis loops and all that kind of thing. I guess you’re starting to think about low temperature systems?

Entrepreneurship and the Cryostream System

Whatmore:

Exactly. You’ve established yourself not only as an excellent scientist, but also as something of an entrepreneur, and you’ve built a business.

Glazer:

Maybe – I’m not sure I think of myself as an entrepreneur!

Whatmore:

Well, shall we say it’s probably fashionable to refer to scientist-entrepreneurs these days but in those days it wasn’t, not when you started …

Glazer:

Well, times were very different then!

Whatmore:

Can you tell us something about your low temperature recording system and how it started and what happened?

Glazer:

Well, it wasn’t really a recording system. What happened was that I wanted to have a system to look at powder diffraction at low temperatures. Now, the only commercial apparatus at that time that was available was made by a company called Enraf-Nonius. It was a horrible beast! It was made out of glass, and was very fragile, a real “Heath Robinson” piece of equipment. It used liquid nitrogen but was very, very unstable. You had multiple Dewars to get it to work properly. You were lucky if you could get down below 150 Kelvin, with a precision of maybe plus/minus 30 Kelvin, something like that – often liquid nitrogen all over the place. When the Dewar was expended, and you had to refill it, you lost pressure – it was an utter mess! The result was that crystallographers who had wanted to do low temperature crystallography for years hardly ever did it.

Whatmore:

It was just too much hassle.

Glazer:

The Original Cryostream Prototype

I wanted something better than that and we had in the Clarendon a very good low temperature laboratory. One of the guys who ran that was a technician, what we called research support staff - John Cosier - who was an expert in cryogenics. So, I approached him with the problem and explained that what we needed was an open-stream cold nitrogen gas that was stable, and you could believe the temperature of. And he went away and came back with an idea – the idea was that – unlike the old systems where you had a sealed Dewar and you put a heater in it and boiled-off liquid nitrogen and the gas went through a pipe and over the crystal – and you can see that if you were to break the seal (for example to refill the Dewar), you would lose the pressure and the temperature would go all over the place. He designed a system where you had an open Dewar with liquid nitrogen in it, and a capillary pipe inside it. You suck the liquid nitrogen into the capillary pipe, which has a vacuum jacket around it, then into a heat-exchanger, and when it enters the heat-exchanger the cold liquid nitrogen is heated – turned into gas. From there it comes out of the heat-exchanger through a pump and then back to the heat-exchanger, by which time it’s now near room temperature. Now you have the room-temperature gas on one side of the heat-exchanger and on the other side you’ve got the cold liquid, so the gas is cooled again and that cold nitrogen gas then goes out through the nozzle, where you have another heater that allows you heat up that cold gas to any temperature you want. He built a prototype and because the Dewar is not sealed, that meant you could refill it at any time you like – there’s no pressure difference between the inlet and the outlet. We built a prototype which was about a metre long and tried it for the first time and it astonished us because suddenly we could go down to liquid nitrogen temperature with an error of 0.1 degrees. I said to John: “I think this is important for crystallographers”. I then said to him: “We’ve got to make this smaller”, because my idea was to make the system, so it was portable, so you could put it on a diffractometer or on a camera, wherever you wanted to have a cold stream of nitrogen. So he redesigned it, and we worked on that to get it small enough and we called it the “Cryostream”. I called the Head of Department – Prof Bill Mitchell – into see it. He said; “It’s very clever – I don’t think there’s any money in it ‘though.” So I said; “Bill, do you mind if we set up a plant in the basement here, to see whether we can market this?”. He said: “Yes, go ahead.” Those were the days when the University wasn’t interested in this kind of thing. Today you’d have to get patents, you’d have to have lawyers involved – you never get there. We probably would never have started. But in those days it was free and easy. So we built a couple of them and at that time one of the representatives of the Stoe Company in Germany – David Brown – came through. He was a salesman who was very well liked in this country. He came through and he saw it, and he went away and about three weeks later he came back and he said: “I’ve got a customer for you”. That was Paul Raithby who was in the Chemistry Department at Cambridge and Paul was prepared to pay the money up-front for a system, and the result was we were able to work and we never had to take a loan. We were always cash-rich in this business. So we built that first one for him – which by the way is still working – we’re talking about 1982 , something like that. He then recommended it to Bill Clegg in Newcastle, and then the next one came from an order from Germany. We had a problem in Germany because the control unit we were using was a BBC Microcomputer – that’s all we had at the time – and in Germany, they said: “We don’t support the BBC Micro”, so we couldn’t do it. So, we put the BBC Micro into a box and called it a Temperature Controller, and then they were happy. That’s how we started. A great advance happened at this point. In the field of protein crystallography, they’d had a problem always that protein crystals don’t survive very long in the X-ray beam, which made it very difficult to collect their data – they had vast amounts of data to collect. It was discovered that if you flash cooled the crystal, and kept it cold, it would survive indefinitely in the X-ray beam. Everybody in the protein field, who were the people who had the money, wanted to do this flash cooling and we came along with this device and sales took-off exponentially. So, we then bought a place out in North West Oxford and put our own plant there and went into business, initially as a partnership, later as a company marketing the Cryostream, and later other variants of this. Some years later we sold the business, so we made a lot of money out of that, and we carried on. We were owned by a private equity company at the time, which was not very satisfactory because it made it very difficult for us to innovate. Eventually we managed to buy the company back – for much less than it was worth – so we carried on the business to develop it – and we had partly a loan from me, partly a loan from the bank, partly a loan form a venture capitalist, and last year we sold the company again (classic you know!) and we did very well! It’s a thriving business. We are the sole distributers for low temperature apparatus for crystallographers around the world and it’s a surprisingly big business. I don’t know how many Cryostreams we’ve sold now – several thousand around the world – going out at about fifteen to twenty thousand pounds each – and we’ve branched out into other areas now. We have another area now, we’re working on the detectors for the Square Kilometre Array, which is these vast arrays of telescopes – radio telescopes – in South Africa. And in the centre of each disc they’ve got three detectors and each detector has got to be separately cooled, so we provide the cooling devices for each of those. So that’s a multi-million-pound order over the next few years.

The first production Cryostream – used by crystallographers all over the world

Whatmore:

Wow! Fantastic!

Glazer:

So that’s been the way we’ve branched-out. It’s been a very, very successful business and in the crystallography community we are very well known and well-liked.

Whatmore:

I’ve seen your Cryostream systems in various laboratories around the world.

Glazer:

I get a great kick out of walking into a lab and seeing a Cryostream. We have no competition now. We did have for a few years, but we’ve seen them all off.

Crystallographic Computing

Whatmore:

You mentioned also your interest in computing, a little earlier, which started when you were working at Elliott Automation, just after you left school.

Glazer:

We had a computer there called the Elliott 803, if I remember correctly,

Whatmore:

That’s right. I remember when we worked together you were always interested in crystallographic computing and you worked with Judy Matthewman at Cambridge on developing software. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that?

Glazer:

It originally goes back earlier than that because when I was a research student in Kathleen Lonsdale’s lab, we had a computer called the Ferranti Pegasus Mark 2. Now this was a machine that had two huge units as big as this room, and beautiful coachwork, beautiful bodywork built by Rolls Royce. It had 8K of store and a magnetic drum. All the software was programmed in machine code, 5-hole paper tape in and 5-hole paper tape out – we were doing least squares refinement on that by cycling tape in and out. So, we had to learn really the fundamentals of computers and computer architecture and how they worked. There were no high-level languages at that time until one was developed in Gordon Square in London at the Atlas Centre – called Mercury Autocode. It was like a Basic programming language. That was a very good introduction to computing at the bottom level. That computer, by the way, many years later was resuscitated and rebuilt and I was invited along with a few other people to the Science Museum and they had it actually running for first time in many years – it was the only working valve computer in the world, and we had a big party with a lot of the original people who had built that computer back in the early 50’s. It had originally been used by British Aerospace for designing wings. It then went to Norway, and the Norwegians gave it to Kathleen Lonsdale and we had that in London. We were the only research group, I think, in the world that had its own computer in those days. We’re talking about 1965, something like that. So, that computer – they got it running at the Science Museum, and I remember that on the front of the primary unit, there was a chair that we used to sit at with all the keys that we used to press. You could still see a coffee stain I had left there one night!

Whatmore:

(Laughter) Brilliant!

Glazer:

Anyway, it’s no longer at the Science Museum – they’ve put it into the store, now, unfortunately, but it was a unique machine. You can read about it on the web if you just type in Ferranti Pegasus. So that’s how I really learned the fundamentals of computers.

Whatmore:

But then I remember Judy Matthewman at Cambridge had designed a program for doing crystallographic computing – a kind of crystallographic “tool kit”.

Glazer:

That had started with Jane Brown, actually. She was a good programmer herself and she had this link with Judy Matthewman who was an outside worker designing modular packages for crystallography, and I took that over later, in fact, when I came to Oxford because Jane had moved to the ILL in France at the time. I was able to employ Judy to carry on that work, so my involvement with software was really more after being in Oxford, but I did write some computer programs in Cambridge.

Whatmore:

And that gave rise to your Crystallographica computer program?

Glazer:

That was in Oxford Cryosystems. Our company wanted to have a software arm, and one of my students (Alex Renshaw) at Oxford, who was really very clever, we employed him at Oxford Cryosystems to do the software for our apparatus and I had the idea we should try and do more on the crystallographic software, so he and one or two others started programming in C++ a program called Crystallographica, which again was a kind of modular crystallographic software. Its language was Pascal, and one of my very bright students (John Moxon) had built a whole compiler. I think it was the only Pascal interpreter in the world, which meant that you could type in a command and get an immediate response. That was built-into it and you could design your own software by bolting-together all sorts of crystallographic modules. So, if you wanted one to calculate the structure factor, for example, you just wrote that into the code and it did it for you. It was brilliant!

Whatmore:

Right!

Glazer:

And we put that on the market for a while. Eventually we discontinued it, mainly because it had been written for 16-bit computers and they went out. To change the compiler to work on a 32-bit system was going to be such a huge job we abandoned that, and we started giving the software away free. But we also developed another version of this, that we called Crystallographica Search-Match which was designed to search powder data. You collected powder patterns and then searched through databases to try to identify the materials. There were a lot of programs at the time that did this kind of thing, but I think it had a few unique points about it. And I remember it was at the Glasgow International Union of Crystallography meeting – I don’t remember the year now - I got hold of a guy on the Philips stand. Philips at that time were the company that sold powder diffractometers – one of the main suppliers of powder diffractometers – and I got hold of the Managing Director then who was there and said: “You’d better come and have a look at this”. I showed him our Search-Match software. Philips at that time – the software for their powder diffractometer was really quite poor. They had a beautiful machine – but really they were falling down on the software – whereas their competitors had better software. So, I showed him this and he went away, and then came back and said: “Let’s do a deal!”. So, Oxford Cryosystems and Philips – which then later became PanAlytical – we did a deal where for several years they paid us royalties while we kept the software updated and eventually we sold it to them.

Whatmore:

So, the PanAlytical software is based on your ...

Glazer:

Their Search-Match software is based on our kernel.

Whatmore:

That’s fascinating, I never knew that. I am sure the readers will be absolutely fascinated to hear that bit of history.

Glazer:

It’s a funny business, because I remember when I started with Oxford Cryosystems – the low temperature thing – we were at a loss for how to proceed, having never done a business before. I think it’s probably my father’s instinct to be honest. We called-in a guy from the Department of Trade and Industry to advise us – they had a special unit to advise academics and so-on how to go into business. Well, he came over and I pretty soon decided that I knew more about business than he did! And so, we just set-about it. I think it’s come from my father’s inventiveness, I think that sort-of carried through to me.

Whatmore:

So, the other area – while we’re talking about building stuff and building businesses that are based on your historical interests in crystallography - is birefringence, and your systems for measuring birefringence. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Birefringence Measurement System

Glazer:

This goes back to Cambridge. We wanted to measure the birefringence, which is essentially optical anisotropy, in a crystal as a function of temperature because it’s a very, very sensitive measure of structural changes. If you get it right, you can measure changes to within about one part in ten-to-the-seven. It’s a phenomenally sensitive method, and the way it was usually done was with a petrological microscope and you put quartz wedges in and all sorts of things – this was the way that geologists were working. We designed in Cambridge a more-automated system whereby we used a photocell to measure the intensity through the microscope and then a system with a circular analyser and a rotating polariser and when you do the maths on it you get an intensity which is proportional to three quantities: Io, which is the transmitted light intensity – not terribly interesting for most purposes, another term - the sine of the phase shift of the light – sin - and the phase shift of the light is related to the birefringence – a sinusoidal function of it – and also the angle of orientation of what we call the fast or slow axis. The refractive index figure in a crystal is defined by an ellipse in projection – it’s called the “indicatrix”, so it has “minor” and “major” axes, so the orientation of those axes with respect to your choice of crystal axes is an important quantity. So, we had these three quantities, and then simply by processing the light intensity data at different angles of the rotating polariser – we maybe had twelve or six different values of intensity – we could then work back, solve the equation, lift out the three quantities and plot that out on a chart recorder. We could raise the temperature, see how sin changed with temperature and how the angle changed with temperature and this meant you could see phase transitions to phenomenal precision. Now when I came to Oxford, I had a brain-wave a few years later – I remember I was in the shower! – and I thought to myself: “Why don’t we replace the photocell with a two-dimensional detector?”. These were just beginning to appear in those days. Now we had a project at the time – there’s a story here that involves you, actually, by the way. We had a project with Plessey and yourself on new opto-electronic materials and I proposed an idea to the group – actually we wrote it up in one of our reports – I still have a copy of it – and with an idea of using a two-dimensional detector and therefore each pixel in the detector is equivalent to our original photocell. So, instead of having one data point, we have thousands of datapoints all measured at the same time. Therefore, we could work out sin for each and create a false-colour image of sin across the field of view of the specimen. Now, I applied to the Research Council for the money to do that. It was rejected out of hand. I was told that the reason it was rejected was that one of the referees had said it was not feasible. I was so angry, I hired a student to do the project – I paid the money myself for it all. He got it working and we published it. I originally tried to get it into Nature – and there’s another long story which I won’t bore you with – which effectively ended with me telling Nature to “go to hell!”, and we published in the Royal Society instead. That was the first paper on the imaging system and we use it to this day. Where it has turned out to be particularly important is in diamond research. The various companies working on artificial diamonds, they use it a lot because it’s a way of assessing the quality of their diamonds. They find that birefringence is a very, very sensitive quantity – you can see the strain around dislocations and growth sectors and so-on. So, we had that system and we still use it. For a while Oxford Cryosystems marketed that – we sold about 20 or so of those – but the market is very difficult because it’s such an esoteric area. Not many people really know enough to know that they really need this.

Whatmore:

They don’t know how to use it

Glazer:

They don’t know how to use it or what it’s for. We sold it to some interesting people – somebody working on spider silk, another one working on bones. We did an interesting project on amyloids in CJD – you could see it in the microscope. So, it still exists, but we don’t market it any more. It wasn’t a good-enough commercial project in the end.

Visitors to Oxford

Whatmore:

Right. Let’s go back to your Oxford group and one of the things I know about your characteristics is that you’ve always been very welcoming to visitors. I know you’ve had a lot of people through your Oxford group and you’ve always been very proud of that. Would you like to say a little bit about your visitors and who you’ve had through? I know you’ve had Nava Setter through, for example, and she will be very well-known to the readership.

Glazer:

I’m not sure that helped her, to be honest!

Whatmore:

I know that she always speaks very fondly of the time she spent here.

Glazer:

Yes, she was with us for a few months. We had a very nice visitor from India – Vinod Wadahawan – working on ferroelastics and ferrogyrotropics, which is an interesting topic. There was a really bad story that I can tell you about. He arrived on a Nuffield Foundation grant to me here, and we had to find him somewhere to live. I had a list of places from the city council to go through. We sat down in the room together and I got on the ‘phone and I ‘phoned the first one on the list and I spoke to this lady - and Vinod is sitting next to me – first time he’s been in England – first time out of India I think. I said to the lady: “I have a distinguished visitor from abroad and we’re looking for rooms” and she said: “Yes, I’ve got a very nice room – blah, blah, blah” – she’s telling me about the size of the room and so on. I said: “That sounds excellent, lovely – I’m sure we’ll take that”. Then, she says: “What’s the name of the gentleman? and I said: “His name is Vinod Wadahawan” and there’s a silence on the end of the ‘phone for a moment. Then she said: “Well, I don’t think this will be very suitable for him.” I said: “What do you mean, ‘I don’t think this will be very suitable for him’.” “Well, you know, they cook and make smells and so-on”. Wadahawan is sitting there next to me! He’s just come to England! I was so angry, I just threw the telephone on the floor and smashed it! Right in front of Vinod. I apologised to him. I said: “This is your welcome to this great country!” So, I rang up the city council and complained and she was taken off the list. That was his introduction to us! We remained – and still remain – very good friends.

Whatmore:

Good! Well, that is good!

Glazer:

I remember he went to work in Penn State for a while and I remember talking to him there and he said he had nothing like that in America.

Whatmore:

Any other recollections about visitors?

Glazer:

Well, we had for a while Beatriz Noheda from Madrid– working on PZT. She was working with us for a while and I suspect – I hope – some of these ideas of the so-called monoclinic phase were born then – not quite organised then. She went on to the States and discovered the monoclinic structure in the end. So, she was with us for a while. I had visitors from Poland a lot. I had a lot of interest in collaboration in Poland, in a different area of science I was involved in. This was more to do with crystal structures and their optical rotation, which was another physical property I was trying to get to. That started up another whole area of collaboration which lasted for several years.

Lead-Free Ferroelectrics

Whatmore:

One other area of interest for you, I know, has been lead-free ferroelectric materials. How did that start?

Glazer:

Well, that was because, as everybody knows, lead – as we have in PZT and related materials – is toxic, at least in its free form. There are moves by the European Union and other governments of wanting to get rid of lead from compounds, and so there has been a lot of interest in trying to find replacements for lead in PZT – to make lead-free piezoelectric materials.

Whatmore:

But, your work on lead-free ferroelectrics predates that by quite a long way, I think, because you really started work on what we would now understand as a lead-free ferroelectric – which is KTP – back in the 1980’s, which was well-before people started getting, shall we say “up-tight”, about lead in ferroelectrics.

Glazer:

That’s right. That’s true. KTP – potassium titanyl phosphate – this came about because of my having read an article about this material, which looked very interesting, and so I worked with Pamela Thomas, who was another of my research students, and is now my wife, on that particular material to try to understand its crystallography, its physical properties and the way it works. It’s a complicated material. It’s also an ionic conductor and one of the things we discovered is how the potassium ions could move through the crystal structure, where the channels were for that. That material turns out to be very interesting also for second harmonic generation, because it’s a transparent material, it’s a polar material and you can do phase-matching to enhance the SHG signal. There’s been a lot of work been done on – what is it – you know, where you have opposite polar domains ...

Whatmore:

Periodic polar domains ...

Glazer:

Yes, periodic domains - periodic polar domains ...

Whatmore:

Particularly for phase-matching ...

Glazer:

Yes, for quasi-phase-matching and Pam has done most of the work on that. She’s taken the KTP story much further, to understand what happens when you make these anti-polar domains – and how that works in creating the SHG. One of our papers that we did together on the phase-transition in KTP, which happens at high temperature is a fairly highly-cited paper, in fact. So that was KTP – an important material. Pam went much further and also looked at RTP – rubidium titanyl phosphate – and also the arsenate, and she even took out a patent on one of these. So, that was a very successful project.

Whatmore:

So, Pam carried that on when she moved from here to Warwick?

Glazer:

When she moved to Warwick, yeah.

Whatmore:

Did that take you into other lead-free ferroelectrics, then, or is that an independent thing that came later ...

Glazer:

It was independent. It was a project in its own right, really. The lead-free ferroelectrics work came later when the idea of lead-free materials was starting to appear and we applied for grant money to do that. That initial application if I remember correctly was successful, so we began looking for new materials that were lead-free and the one that came-up was sodium bismuth titanate - Na½Bi½TiO3. From a crystallographic and chemical point of view, the thing that really interested me about this was that it was a mixed system, yet it had exactly one-half sodium and exactly one-half bismuth, as if it was a true compound in its own right, and that was rather mysterious as you’d expect it to be a solid solution – especially as the sodium and the bismuth as so different in size and different in charge. But, it doesn’t – it forms an exact compound, and that’s odd.

Whatmore:

But, the sodium and bismuth are disordered?

Glazer:

Well, we didn’t know that for sure at the time ...

Whatmore:

That was a question, by the way, not a statement ...

Glazer:

We know now that it’s disordered but at the time that wasn’t known. The structure really wasn’t characterized properly. So, Pam and I worked on that, and also with Jens Kreisel, who came over as a post-doc with me for a while, and also Vika Shuvaeva from Russia, working in my group, and we all worked together on trying to understand the phase transitions in sodium bismuth titanate and how its structure works. Pam published a very important paper with one of her students – “Jones and Thomas” that’s a very highly cited paper – on the structural phase transitions in NBT. So, although we were working together we were also doing some of our own separate things at the same time. When Jens came over we also worked on PMN-PT – that’s lead magnesium niobate - lead titanate solid solution. It’s not a lead-free material, but it’s a very good piezoelectric material that you can get as a single crystal and it’s a very successful material because it is now the standard piezoelectric material that’s used in medical ultrasonic devices today. But, one of the interesting things that came out of that, from my point-of-view, was we had a sample of what at that time was the world’s best crystal - from Korea. But, when we used it on our birefringence microscope system you could see that it wasn’t pure at all! There was lots of all-sorts of stuff in there! Yet, to all intents and purposes it looked perfect. So, when you look at it in detail, you find that these materials are not really that good, at least not optically, even though they work.

Whatmore:

And does that have any consequences, do you think, for the properties of the material?

Glazer:

It depends on how rough these things are, actually. PMN-PT is very complex. As you go across the phase diagram, the number of different phases you get varies according to the experiment you do. One of my students did a very interesting experiment, which he published – David Zekria his name was – in which he grew a single crystal of PMN-PT which had a composition gradient running across it, and simply by looking at the birefringence image of this thing you could see, as you heated it up, that it traced-out the phase diagram for you as the front moved across the crystal. So you could plot-out all the different phases, just by watching, on one single crystal. It was a brilliant piece of work.

Whatmore:

So, that’s bringing together your interests in birefringence, and the birefringence measurement system that we talked about, and actually applying it to some really important practical areas?

Glazer:

Yes, that microscope has turned-out to be extremely important. It’s being used in all sorts of areas, even though there aren’t many of them around – particularly for example in diamond research, where it’s an important tool.

Scientific Relationships with Poland

Whatmore:

Would you like to expand a bit on your relationships with Poland, because I know it’s been very important to you?

Glazer:

Yes, partly because my grandmother came from Warsaw, so I have a Polish connection back there. So, I was interested in Poland. In 1978, we had an International Congress – everything happens at International Congresses, it’s remarkable! - an International Congress in Warsaw - and while I was there I was invited down to the city of Krakow at the end of the conference. So, I went down there, and they had a very good crystal group in the Chemistry Department. They had a diffractometer – we had no diffractometer in Oxford – they had a CDC computer on-site. Computing in Oxford was awful at that time - they had a much more superior thing – remember this was a communist country at the time but they had much superior kit than we had. We discussed the idea of doing some joint projects and so I worked with one or two of the people, in particular with a lady called Katarzyna Stadnicka who was an expert on mainly organic crystallography, I would say. She knew her stuff! So we decided to work together on this idea of trying to relate the structures of crystals – inorganic ones – with the optical rotation. This is where polarized light on passing through a crystal – certain crystals – can be rotated either to the left or to the right. The question is: what is it about the structure that says it goes to the left or it goes to the right? Now, this is a subject that really goes back to 1811, when it was first discovered by Arago, in France, and by 1815 Jean-Baptiste Biot in France had done all the basic experiments that he could think of doing and it was now down to theory and the theory lagged behind for years and years and years. It turned out to be a very important subject. My hero, Pasteur did the classic experiment where he was able to show that certain crystals had morphologies that were mirror-images of one-another, and when you dissolved them in water, even the solutions showed rotation. So, there was a link between the molecules – the “handedness” of the molecules – and that of the crystals and actually in 1848 when Pasteur discussed this, he pointed out that this must relate to living organisms – a living organism must have something – he called it “disymmetric” – that today we call “chiral” – about them and, of course, 100 years later we had DNA where this turns out to be the case. It took 100 years for that prophecy to come true. So, I was interested in this problem and at the end of the 40’s new techniques in X-ray crystallography had been developed, including one called “anomalous scattering”. Now, normally X-ray diffraction patterns are centro-symmetric, but if you look very carefully, especially if you have a wavelength which is close to an absorption edge, in non-centrosymmetric crystals you break that centre-of-symmetry in the diffraction pattern and you can use that to determine whether a polar crystal is “up” or “down”, or whether a chiral crystal is “left” or “right”. So, the idea was to measure the optical rotation, and then take those same crystals on which you’ve measured the optical rotation, put it on the diffractometer, collect the data and measure this anomalous scattering effect very accurately and try to relate the two and see whether there was a connection. So, we went through all of the publications we could find and what we kept finding was that in many papers where they’d related the optical rotation to the structure, there was a mistake of some sort. Now, if you’ve got an odd-number of mistakes, then you’ve got a problem! You have to have an even-number of mistakes in order to be right, but how do you know! So, we threw-out all the ones where there was an obvious mistake and we ended up with 10 which we couldn’t see anything wrong with. We worked on those and we came up with a theory – a very simple theory, in fact, related to helical arrangements of atoms, and we were able to predict, in every case, the sign of rotation. We also wrote a computer program with an Indian visitor, Devarajan who visited us, which enabled us to calculate that effect quite well. Originally, theoreticians had said that this was such a marginal thing that you’d never be able to predict it, but we were able to predict it. So that was how that came about. That came through the Polish connection. That persisted for years because, if you recall, Poland got into a problem. Martial law was declared, the whole country was sealed-off - there was no contact. Conditions were very bad and so I tried to keep up contacts – tried to get samples over and so-on. I had - interesting story – I had a contact in the Polish Embassy who I talked to at this time, who was willing to help me to get samples over to Krakow.

Whatmore:

This was in the late ‘80’s was it?

Glazer:

’82, ’83 was it? I can’t remember. I remember it was December 13th, when martial law was declared in Poland. They’d made such an efficient job of sealing-off the country that nobody could contact anybody in Poland at the time, not even the Russians could do it because the whole of the telephone exchange was destroyed – we were getting a lot of rumours and so-on. So, I had this contact in the Polish Embassy, who was their Science Attaché, who was willing to help. He told me that they had no communication with Poland either – they were getting their news from the BBC – but they had a van that would travel there twice a week and they were willing to take the samples on the van. So, I go down to the Polish Embassy – it was completely closed and shuttered-up – flowers all over the street outside in protest and I knocked on the door. A guy comes out and I give him the samples, say goodbye and come out. I‘m walking down the street and a policeman comes up to me. He says: “Excuse me, Dr. Glazer, someone would like to talk to you.” Just around the corner there’s a car. A guy comes out of the car and starts to ask me all sorts of questions about what I’d discussed at the Polish Embassy. I said: “I’m most impressed!” That’s what was going on at that time! That was an eye opener! But anyway, later on that year I was one of the first academics to be allowed into Poland. I remember it was in May of that year. It was the first time I’d ever experienced tear-gas. There was nothing in the shops. Getting food was almost impossible. All we could do was to sit around in the lab having tea and telling jokes and stories and keeping peoples’ spirits up. There were tanks in the streets and curfew at night – all kinds of things. I remember on one occasion they put me up in a local hotel – the Krakowia Hotel. I came back there at 10 o’clock – before curfew – I went to the desk and the girl said: “Please go upstairs”. I said: “I want my room keys”. “Please go upstairs!”; “I want my keys!”; “Please go upstairs, the porter’s waiting for you.” So, I go upstairs, go along to my room, and as I arrive the door opens and there’s the porter. He says to me in Polish: “Oh, we were just checking that the window was open”, and gives me my keys and I could see that my suitcase had been fiddled with. So that was that, and the next morning I’m walking along the corridor – and I’d been to this hotel many times – and I was very suspicious about a room at the end there, you see. So, I thought: “I’m going to have a look”. I get to the room and I open the door, and there are two guys in there with headsets on. I said to them, in Polish: “Good morning” – they said it back to me – and I carried on. This is what was going on at the time. It was very upsetting because my friends there were all having real problems. It was really very difficult to work under those conditions. I came back to Oxford, and I was approached by a man from Pembroke College who was in the Humanities – his name was Professor Zbigniew Pełczynski – and he had this idea of setting up a scheme of inviting Polish scholars to Oxford for brief periods – if he could arrange it. He persuaded all of the Oxford Colleges to go in with this scheme to offer a room – one or two rooms each year – for a month at a time, including food, for a visiting Polish scholar. He then persuaded the Polish military authorities to allow us to set-up the scheme. They originally wanted to be involved in it, but he said: “No! No, it’s going to have to be independent.”. Somehow he managed to persuade this communist system to allow him to operate. He then persuaded the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to go in with it and provide some funds and we set-up this thing called the Oxford Colleges Polish Hospitality Scheme. I was put in charge of the Sciences – he dealt with the Humanities, and there was another person helping him out. And so, we started the scheme, advertising in Poland for people to apply from universities. We deliberately set it up so they were short visits, because we thought that if they were long visits the people who would apply would be the old Communist Party hacks, as opposed to genuine academics. It was remarkably successful. The colleges went into this. We had lots of visitors, many of whom, when the government changed, became very important within the Polish government, as a result of it. George Soros got involved – I remember having a meeting with George in Balliol College – we discussed it – he provided money through the Soros Foundation. That opened it up to other countries like Russia, Bulgaria and Romania, and so on – Lithuania. I remember travelling to these countries to interview students as well as in Poland. It spread to Cambridge – Cambridge took it on as well. It became very successful. Many of the people who came, some of them stayed and became well-known scientists. Many went back to Poland. One became Prime Minister, another became the Consul General in London. 10 years after the event we were invited to Warsaw, invited to the palace there. We saw the President – President Wałensa – we had a discussion with him. Then we were given medals.

Whatmore:

Excellent!

Glazer:

Yes. I don’t normally accept honours, not easily – they’re not my scene – but I accepted that. I got the Polish National Medal of Education. That was very nice.

Whatmore:

That’s very nice! So, obviously times have now changed completely - and I know you still have very close friendships in Poland. Do you want to say anything about how things are now?

Glazer:

I go to Poland most years because of the European Materials Research Society Meeting that we’ve had over the years – my colleagues in Katowice, particularly, and I have organized symposia, which I think have been very successful – everyone seems to enjoy them. The most recent one was three weeks ago and everybody said: “When we were going to have the next one?”. We said: “Not for another two years, we don’t do it every year.” But, it’s all about ferroic crystals: ferroelastics, ferroelectrics and so-on, and it’s very well attended and it’s a delight to do. A lot of the same people come to it every time - a few new ones - we have a party – always! – and it’s been very, very successful. So that’s been very nice. It’s also given me an opportunity to spend a bit of time in Warsaw, where my Grandmother came from, and I’ve even been able to find where she originally lived out in the countryside in the early part of the 20th century.

Books, Editorships and Crystallographic History

Whatmore:

So, let’s move on and talk about your books, shall we? I know teaching has always been something of great interest to you. You’re a very good teacher and you like instructing.

Glazer:

I like teaching, and even though I’ve been retired now for eight years, I’m still teaching. I enjoy talking to the younger people – getting to know then and trying, sometimes, to give them the benefit of my knowledge – such as it is. But, it’s more interesting to hear about what they’re doing – to try to encourage them to stay-on in science and become research scientists. That’s what it’s really about – it’s meeting the young people.

Whatmore:

So, is it the interest in teaching that’s led you to write books?

Glazer:

Yes, most of my books are really for education. The first book I wrote was a small book on the structures of crystals – done in very simple terms to explain it to students. We have the Space Groups book with Gerry Burns – which, as I say, is now in its third edition and has been updated as we change the nomenclature in the International Tables. I’ve served on the International Tables Commission for several years and been involved in the devising of notation and symmetry ideas for the International Union – that’s one of my interests – there’s that book. A recent book I’ve published is in OUP’s series, a Very Small Introduction to Crystallography – that’s a small book explaining the whole of crystallography, suitable for somebody with any basic knowledge of science – and that’s gone quite well. It’s sold pretty well. Sometimes I see it at airports ...

Whatmore:

Wasn’t that what Hawking always said about “A Brief History of Time” – that he wanted to see his book for sale at the airport?

Glazer:

Well, I’ve seen mine for sale there ...

Whatmore:

Excellent!

Glazer:

I’ll tell you another thing about my book – when we had the IUCr meeting in Bordeaux, many years ago – there was a books’ stand there - it had all kinds of books and my Space Groups book was there on display. It was the only book that was stolen! I guess that’s some kind of accolade! And, funnily enough this year we had the European Crystallography Meeting in Oviedo in Spain. That book was on the stand again, and two were stolen.

Whatmore:

(Laughing) Is it very expensive?

Glazer:

Reasonably, yes ...

Whatmore:

Well, maybe that’s a clue!

Interests in The Braggs

Glazer:

So, that was a successful book and it’s still going strong and it’s used widely. After that, I wrote a book on the Autobiographies of Sir Lawrence Bragg and his wife Lady Bragg. I wrote that with the daughter of Sir Lawrence – Patience Thomson, who lives not far from here. This is two autobiographies, put together in one book. They both talk about each other in their books, you see. I got to know the Bragg family very well while doing that. I had access to all kinds of information that wasn’t known about – the family and so-on. Patience is interesting because she’s the daughter of Lawrence Bragg - a Nobel Prize winner – the grand-daughter of William Bragg - also a Nobel Prize winner. Her husband, David Thomson, is the son of G.P. Thomson - a Nobel Prize winner – and the grandson of J.J. Thomson - also a Nobel Prize winner. How about that! It gets even worse because Lawrence Bragg’s sister’s daughter Lucy married the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, who was a physiologist who got a Nobel Prize!

Whatmore:

You’re talking about a family business, really, aren’t you?

Glazer:

A family business, yes! So, I got to know them very well and I’d met Lawrence Bragg a few times when I was a research student in London because he came through talking to Kathleen Lonsdale from time-to-time and she introduced me to him. So I’d met him a couple of times and when I went to the Cavendish Lab, the boss of the group was Will Taylor – I don’t know if you remember Will – W.H Taylor?

Whatmore:

No.

Glazer:

Well, he was the boss, anyway, and he’d been an assistant to Lawrence Bragg when Bragg came to Cambridge. Together, we were involved in planning the 80th birthday celebration for Lawrence Bragg, which we held at the Royal Institution, so again I got to meet him. I can tell you a funny story about that. I was driving into London to get to the event at the Royal Institution where there was going to be a reception for him and I got to Piccadilly Circus, and this black car cut right in front of me on the Circus. So, I leant out of the window and I shouted abuse at the driver – I was only young at that time. I wasn’t the nice cuddly person I am now. Anyway, to my horror I saw it was Lawrence Bragg! Half-an-hour later, I’m in the Royal Institution and I’m standing on the grand staircase in a long queue of scientists and other people waiting to get to the top to shake his hand and wish him a “happy-birthday”. Eventually, I get to the top. I grabbed his hand and said: “Happy Birthday, Sir Lawrence”. He looked at me and he started to smile, and he said: “Young man ...”, but before he could say anything else, the next person grabbed his hand, and that was that!

Whatmore:

(Laughing) Very good, very good! So, you have a particularly strong interest in the history of crystallography ...

Glazer:

Yes, I have a large collection of crystallographic objects, models and equipment from the past, which I maintain, a lot of it’s upstairs here (in the Clarendon). A lot of things which came from Cambridge that belonged to Bragg.

Whatmore:

You also inherited a large collection of ferroelectric and other crystals, from the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment - RSRE – at Malvern, didn’t you?

Glazer:

Yes, they’re still here. We can sometimes plunder those. When RSRE closed-down their crystal-growing activity, the crystals all came here. I grabbed hold of that collection with alacrity!

Whatmore:

I’ve often thought there ought to be some kind of international repository where people can put interesting materials – crystals that they’ve grown or ceramics that they’ve made – that could be used for further research by anyone who is interested. It costs so much to make them in the first place!

Glazer:

Yes, it’s very difficult getting crystals like this that have been grown in the past. It’s the same with crystallographic equipment as far as I’m concerned. What’s going to happen to all of the stuff here when I’m gone, who knows! It’s not valuable in the monetary sense, but it is of-interest. I’ve got X-ray tubes of the Braggs, from 1913, things like that – all kinds of things I’ve got upstairs here, which I maintain. I think the culmination of all this interest was several years ago, it must have been about 2014 I think, we had a European Crystallography Meeting at Warwick, I together with Pam Thomas organised something called The Two Braggs exhibition. We were able to obtain equipment from all over the country that had been used by both the father and son in their research and put them on show. We had their Nobel Prizes there and the certificates. We had five of the original ionization spectrometers – one from Cambridge, one from the Royal Institution, one from the Science Museum and so-on. So, the original equipment they used back in 1913-14, we had that on exhibit. The Molecular Biology Laboratory in Cambridge gave me the original Perutz models of haemoglobin – we also had on exhibit. We had the original DNA model. Letters, photographs from the Bragg family. A huge exhibition of paintings. The Braggs were very good artists – people don’t realise that. So, we had all of Lawrence Bragg’s and W.H Bragg’s pictures on the walls there for people to look at. It was really a fantastic occasion and over a period of four days, we had over 1,000 visitors, but it’ll never happen again because it was such hard work. You have to realise that when you’re borrowing things from National museums and collections, you have to have the right sort of showcases. I knew it was going to cost about £34,000 to put on, because to do that kind of exhibition, you’ve got to have proper showcases, insurance and all kinds of things. Everybody that I contacted was very enthusiastic – the Bragg family was very enthusiastic – they gave me lots of drawings and paintings because the Braggs were very good artists as well as scientists. The Royal Society of Chemistry gave me a load of money immediately for it. Trinity College Cambridge gave me £5,000 straight off towards it.

Whatmore:

It’s really expensive to hire those sorts of things. But it went off well?

Glazer:

Oh, yes. It went off extremely well. We held a very successful exhibition – very successful. It was a fantastic exhibition and people still remember it.

Whatmore:

Fantastic! Very Good! Let’s move on to editorships. You started a journal ... Phase Transitions.

Glazer:

Yes, Phase Transitions - with Gordon and Breach. It comes out of a complaint I made about Ferroelectrics (the journal) with Gordon and Breach, because it was very, very expensive.

Whatmore:

Yes!

Glazer:

And actually, it involves you – again!

Whatmore:

Oh, dear!

Glazer:

You may remember we went to a Ferroelectrics meeting in Zurich. Were you there at that one?

Whatmore:

No, I didn’t go to that one.

Glazer:

Oh, you didn’t go to that one! Well, the papers that we published were from that Zurich meeting.

Whatmore:

Right.

Glazer:

I think there were three if I remember correctly. And when the proofs came, Gordon and Breach announced that they were no longer going to provide free reprints – you had to buy them. I blew up! I rang them up and spoke to one of the directors there. I said: “You know, not everyone can afford to pay for reprints, particularly if you’re in countries like India and so-on. I can afford it, but on principle I think it’s wrong to do that. Had I known you were going to do that, I wouldn’t have sent those papers to you in the first place.” Anyway, he came to see me, and we chatted about it, and in the conversation, I happened to mention that a big area of interest was phase transitions – and he came back to me later and said: “How about doing a journal in Phase Transitions?”. I said: “No, not with your company! You’re too damned expensive!”. Anyway, he persuaded me, and I said: “OK, provided I can do it with somebody else.” and he came up with Roman Smoluczowksi, to help me with it. We started from there and it worked reasonably well.

Whatmore:

Are you still involved.

Glazer:

Well, I still referee for them. I got to know Martin Gordon very well – the head of Gordon and Breach – he’s a very interesting entrepreneur. Very rich – has homes all over the world – never pays any taxes! He’s quite a character and I remember that I kept trying to persuade him to let me have free reprints. He said: “No, we don’t give free reprints”. I remember he rang me from Heathrow Airport once, he was in a hurry, and I said: “Martin, what about free reprints?”. He said: “Oh, yes, all right then.” So I rang up the company and said: “Martin says we can have free reprints.” So that’s how we did that.

International Union of Crystallography

Whatmore:

Very good!! Your other activities: you’ve mentioned the International Union of Crystallography several times during this interview and I know you were Vice-President of the IUCr. Tell us a bit about that – it’s obviously important to you.

Glazer:

It’s very important! I was introduced to it by Kathleen Lonsdale, who was – when we had the Moscow meeting – was the President. She stood in for J.D. Bernal, who was too ill at the time to do it. So I was already exposed to the idea of the IUCr, in fact I’ve been to every single IUCr meeting since then. I’m probably the only person in the world who’s done that! It’s a great organization – international organization for crystallographers – it’s a non-profit making organization. The people who run it – in Chester – are great people, very devoted to their publications and to the crystallography world. It’s a great organization generally, and they provide grants for students and for conferences and so-on. So, I’ve been involved with them on-and-off for many years in different capacities – sitting on committees, helping out with things like notation and nomenclature, which is an important area in crystallography, and so I just got closer and closer to them all the time. I was editor of the Journal of Applied Crystallography for many years. I did that for nine years, I think it was, which is a long time. They kept involving me in IUCr affairs. I was elected to be Vice-President at the Montreal meeting, which was I think seven years ago – I got in by one vote! And then in the Hyderabad meeting last year I stood for President and got beaten by one vote!

Whatmore:

Oh dear!

Glazer:

I was relieved! It involves a lot of travelling around the world. I’m seventy-five years old now, and it’s getting a bit much to do all that sort of travelling. So, in a way I was kind-of relieved. But anyway, I continued to work with the International Union itself and I’ve just recently been appointed as the Editor for the IUCr Newsletter, and that’s keeping me busy at the moment.

Whatmore:

Very good. I remember – I think it was the first conference I ever went to with you was an IUCr meeting in Amsterdam, in 1975.

Glazer:

That’s the one where I got very drunk!

Whatmore:

I remember it well!

Glazer:

And the story behind that was ...

Whatmore:

Do you really want to tell it?

Glazer:

I can tell it ... I had a very good friend from the Soviet Union – his name was Soloviev – Sergei Soloviev – he had been ... he was a high-up in the Karpov Institute in Moscow. He was one of the favoured few who was allowed to go abroad to meetings. I met him in Moscow in ’66 – he spoke good English – and Sergei and I became friends. He, I’m sure, had connections with the KGB.

Whatmore:

(Laughing) Probably!

Glazer:

I had good reason to think this from something that he told me in Warsaw. We always used to meet at these international meetings, and we’d have long discussions. Of course, we disagreed politically but we’d go and have some drinks together and we were really very good friends. In Amsterdam, I’d been Chairing a session all afternoon, and I remember I’d had a headache and I’d taken some aspirin. Of course, Sergei invited you and me ...

Whatmore:

That’s right ...

Glazer:

To his room in their hotel – and there was another guy there, who was obviously the “minder”.

Whatmore:

And the other people there – there was Sid Abrahams (from Bell Labs) and there was another guy there from America – I can’t remember his name.

Glazer:

I can’t remember. I remember when we went into his room – we went past the bathroom and there were bottles of vodka being cooled in the sink.

Whatmore:

That’s right ...

Glazer:

I sat on the bed, and I can remember having one drink, and then nothing!!! And then I vaguely remember you dragging me into a taxi which Ewald was coming out of at the time.

Whatmore:

That’s right (laughter)

Glazer:

Then the next thing I remember ... we shared a room, didn’t we?

Whatmore:

We were in the same digs, in the same hostel, yeah ... and I put you to bed.

Glazer:

That’s the second time I’ve been drunk at an IUCr meeting, and the first time was in Moscow – on vodka.

Whatmore:

Well the Russians obviously have a lot to answer for! I remember that episode extremely well.

Glazer:

Sergei was a good friend of mine. He got into a bit of trouble in Warsaw because he invited me to his room there and there was a South African friend of mine invited at the same time. He took some photographs and published them in a newspaper in South Africa. South Africa didn’t have relations with the Soviet Union and the next thing we heard was that Sergei was no longer at the Karpov Institute and was now a school teacher.

Whatmore:

Wow!

Glazer:

Then a few years later I was at a European meeting in Moscow and he suddenly appeared. He had heard I was in Moscow. He was working in Chernobyl at the time on the reactor problem and he’d come all the way to Moscow to see me.

Whatmore:

Fantastic.

Glazer:

But in Warsaw, I’ll tell you that story as well, he wasn’t really at the conference officially, but I saw him at the conference venue – this was in 1978 at the Congress – and I went up to him. I said: “Sergei, nice to see you! How come you’re here – you’re not on the list of participants. I was hoping you would be.” He said: “Well, I’m here for a different reason, I’m waiting for somebody.” We carried on chatting outside there, and he explained he was waiting for somebody from the Soviet Embassy to come. And then he told me that he’d been sent specifically to come to Warsaw to visit some of the Polish factories because they thought there was trouble brewing – this was in 1978. I learned from this that the Polish secret service weren’t talking to the Russian secret service. This was the first signs of things changing. That always stuck in my mind.

Current Research

Whatmore:

Fascinating! So, let’s come back to your current research interests. You’re still interested in PZT, you’re still publishing in PZT, it’s a story that runs and runs.

Glazer:

It’s quite a saga, yes – it’s never ending. You know, when I first went into crystallography, crystal structures were regular arrangements of atoms and molecules – nice regular arrangements like soldiers in a line. That was how it was. Over the years, looking at things like PZT it’s become more-and-more apparent that “it ain’t like that!”, that the real science is not in looking at the average structure, which is what you see with normal X-ray diffraction, but it’s the local structure. And when you look at the local structure, what you tend to have is little islands of different types of ordering and it’s that that’s the main thing that drives the physical properties of materials like PZT. We’ve been working on this for a long time. We published a paper in Nature Comms, which won a prize, by the way, from the American Ceramic Society, in which we first proposed a model for what a typical grain of PZT looks like. It has monoclinic regions which are partly ordered, partly disordered, and what happens as you change the composition and you add titanium is that the ordered regions grow at the expense of the disordered regions and they grow until they are bigger than the coherence length of the X-rays and then you see an average monoclinic structure, as opposed to a rhombohedral structure.

Whatmore:

As I remember, you did this with pair distribution function calculations.

Glazer:

This was an idea I had proposed many years earlier at a Ferroelectrics meeting in Cambridge, where I gave a talk.

Whatmore:

Yes – I remember that.

Glazer:

I forget the title – something … I borrowed it from someone …

Whatmore:

Spike Milligan – what was it … “The morphotropic phase boundary, my part in its downfall” … People didn’t get the joke!

Glazer:

No, because people didn’t know about Spike Milligan!

Whatmore:

That’s right!

Glazer:

Spike Milligan had published a book about …

Whatmore:

“Adolf Hitler, My Part in his Downfall” … that’s right

Glazer:

That’s where it came from.

Whatmore:

All to do with “English irony”, perhaps …

Glazer:

But the point I was making there was when you looked at things from the local level, as opposed to the average level, you could go right across the phase diagram without there being a boundary. It was all monoclinic, all the way from one side to the other, once you get down to near unit cell level. And that’s the idea. My idea was that in the middle of the phase diagram, which is where it’s most-piezoelectric, that these random regions grow together, cluster together, and these ordered regions then are the reason why you get this gross piezoelectricity. We know a lot more now, that it really is true. We know that the monoclinic bits have more complex structure than that. In fact, there are two types of monoclinic structure on the rhombohedral side of the phase diagram and we now know that the piezoelectric activity around the centre – the so-called morphotropic phase boundary – is a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic effects. The extrinsic effects, essentially, are due to the domains – the macrostructure, if you like, of the crystal which you have always got, and the intrinsic part is the microstructure where the lead atoms, principally, their polar vectors can rotate under an applied field. It’s the combination of the two that gives rise to that enhanced piezoelectric activity. So, as of today, finally I think I really do now understand how the MPB works! There’s still more to do though!

Whatmore:

Of course. We uncover “layers of the onion”, and we just keep going! Structure-property relations is something that really underlies all of your research.

Glazer:

It’s what I’ve usually used when I’ve applied for grants. The point being that if you want to understand a physical property of a crystalline material, there are two ways of going about it. One thing to do, and this tends to be in industry, is that you mix up whatever you can think of and see what happens – what comes out of it – and if you like what you’ve got you then work on it. The other approach is to go back to very basic science and try to understand how a particular property arises from what you know about the arrangement of the atoms and then use that knowledge to build new materials. I have to confess that the first method – the sort-of “bucket chemistry” method is much more efficient. This what they do in China a lot – you employ lots-and-lots of people to mix everything you can think of, measure all the properties and you’ll come out with something useful,

Whatmore:

Hmmm …

Glazer:

… and you can say, well: “I don’t care about why it’s there”. On the other hand, as a scientist I like to know why things work.

Whatmore:

Yes, yes, and personally I think that’s really important. I think there are many things which come together in this – and we’ve already touched on them, actually, during this interview - which is how the drive to publish is actually distorting, shall we say, truth?

Glazer:

It gives a lot of trouble. I publish now with a small group of people. One from China, who was a research student of mine, Nan Zhang, who interestingly has a permanent position in Xian and is one of the few Chinese who is trying to develop basic materials science, as opposed to just applied, which is the dominant thing in China. Hiroko Yokoto from Tokyo who also worked with me in the group here, Sem Gorfmann, who was in Germany and now is in Israel. The four of us tend to work together now, working on PZT, local structures and so-on. So, we’ve got this rather nice group and since I’ve retired it means I don’t need to have a research group – I can work with them. I can collect some data at the Diamond Light Source, or ISIS and so-on, and they do the basic work and the heavy work and I get involved in the interpretation. This enables me to carry-on publishing. But, the problem we get is that every time we get a paper written, they want papers published in what are perceived to be the “great journals”.

Whatmore:

“High Impact” I think it’s called.

Glazer:

And you end up going to each journal in turn, getting turned down and going onto the next one, and we always end-up back in one of the crystallography journals, which is much better as far as I’m concerned, but unfortunately, they are not seen so by the outside world. In physics, for example, you’re supposed to publish in PRL – Physical Review Letters – if you haven’t published in PRL then you’re not thought to be a physicist. Well, I’ve always resisted it. I’ve only got one publication in PRL – and that was against my wishes!! I refuse to publish in it! I don’t wish to be “told where to publish”. For me as a crystallographer, my peers are in the crystallography world and I’m going to get better refereeing in the crystallography journals. I’m not interested in chasing these fancy journals that other people have decided are “more important”. It’s wrong. Unfortunately, with this group who are trying to make their careers, they force the issue that we have to do it, but we nearly always end up back in crystallography journals.

Personal Influences

Whatmore:

How would you describe your major personal influences? Who do you think have been the major influences on your philosophy and the way you’ve lived in your science life?

Glazer:

I don’t know …

Whatmore:

Would it be Kathleen Lonsdale?

Glazer:

Oh, people who’ve influenced me?

Whatmore:

Yes

Glazer:

Oh, Kathleen Lonsdale for sure! Also Helen, especially Helen - yes - but also some of the people I’ve collaborated with – some of my research students have had a profound effect on me. I’ve learned a lot from other people. From you, for a start. I mean, one of the things I learned from you was to keep an eye on the applied side, you know, and to have a link in some with the industrial side.

Whatmore:

Good!

Glazer:

That’s what I got from you.

Whatmore:

Well, I always thought I got that from you, Mike, so there you go!

Glazer:

Who really knows who did what? (Laughter)

Whatmore:

That’s right! And looking back, where do you think your most significant research contributions would be?

Glazer:

Well, it has to be the tilted octahedra. It turned out to be the most-influential thing.

Whatmore:

Yeah ...

Glazer:

The more-recent work on PZT I hope will do, but it’s too early to tell.

Whatmore:

Yeah ... I was at a conference earlier this year where, shall we say, the pair-distribution function analysis on the structure of material like PZT was definitely gaining ground.

Glazer:

Which conference was that?

Whatmore:

It was the ISAF meeting in Hiroshima, Japan. So, you know, I think that is important and I think your view on PZT is correct – essentially that it is a disordered structure.

Glazer:

It’s taken a long time to get there!

Whatmore:

Yes, well, that’s science for you – it does take a long time.

Glazer:

It makes nonsense of what goes on with funding agencies, doesn’t it?

Opinions on Science Funding

Whatmore:

Yes, I mean, do you want to say a little bit about your view on funding agencies and how science funding works? I know you have strong view about how science should be funded. This is just a place to express a personal opinion, if you like. Where do you think the shortcomings of the funding system lie and what can be done about it?

Glazer:

Well, if we go back to the early days, when I first started, as I mentioned before you could put in an application and be really sure you were going to get a substantial amount of funds. But when, in this country, they established a new regime which was the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council – the EPSRC – they tried to bring in “business principles”. At that time, if you recall, everything was business oriented – science had to be business oriented. So, a lot of “pseudo-jargon” was brought-in by people who really knew nothing about the science. The business community got involved and so you had to have people from industrial companies on panels – very often people who knew nothing about basic science. The real problem was that they established a different scheme whereby you applied for your money and if you got turned down, that was it. There was no attempt to give you a part of the money. Now, I understand the reason why – because when you get partially-funded, there is a tendency to “over-ask”, knowing you would get chopped back, and you would then get what you originally wanted – people would add-in a “phantom technician”. I understand that. But, the system that was brought-in – the result of it was that you could build-up a research group, apply for a grant at a critical point, get turned down – and you weren’t allowed to go back on that same project – and your whole research group goes – it dies. So, it was an uphill struggle to keep a research group going. Unlike in many other countries – if you visit most countries and you visit research groups – you can see the same people who’ve been there for years and years. You can’t do that in this country because you’re constantly having to reinvent yourself, starting from scratch and I think that’s wrong. Prior to that, the system of funding in this country was a joint funding system whereby the government provided money direct to the universities and you had the other system of applying for grants sitting side-by-side. It meant that if I had an idea – and this is how the Cryostream started, in fact – if you had an idea you could go the Head of Department. You could say: “I need some money to try something out”, and yeah, you’d get the money. You can’t do that anymore. You’ve got to apply for the money to get it. Probably you’ll get turned down and you never do it! That’s one of the many basic faults in the system. But there’s another fundamental problem, actually, that is a moral problem to do with funding all over the world. What do we do? We put in an application to explain what we intend to do – as if we know. And what we all do is we all lie. We are all liars! So, what do we do? We start off blowing-up the significance of the research we’re going to do. It’s going to solve the energy problem, it’s going to cure cancer, whatever – blah, blah, blah. None of us actually believe this. It’s a lie! Because that’s not the reason we’re doing it. It’s just there to open the application. But it is a lie! You can’t go in and say: “I want to work on this because it’s interesting, thank you very much, and I don’t know what’s going to come out of it.” But, that’s what you should be able to do. Because, if you look at – in “small science” at any rate – leave aside particle physics and astronomy – but in “small science” if you look at the advances that have happened over the last 300 years they come-about as you know by accident, mostly.

Whatmore:

They’re serendipitous ...

Glazer:

Serendipitous, and sometimes with a very, very long timescale. None of this “impact” nonsense, because who knows what the impact of the research is going to be? I quoted to you the case of Pasteur. He didn’t know he was going to be a part of the solution of genetics. You never know if what you do is going to be important. In my example – of the octahedral tilts – had I applied under the present system to say: “ I want to investigate octahedral tilting systems in perovskites”, do you think I’d have got funded? Not a chance. Not a chance. That’s what’s wrong with the funding system. When Prime Minister Thatcher came in, one of the first things she did was to change the funding system. She fired the Chairman of SERC – the original research council – who by the way was our Head of Department – she fired him because she disagreed with him and forced this other system on, with all its pseudo-business principles. The result is that some people are very, very successful - they know how to manipulate the system. Fundamentally, if you don’t have friends on the panel the chances of getting funded are very, very limited. There are lots of stories I could tell you – I won’t tell you here – of what I think is corruption in the system.

Whatmore:

Perhaps you should just call it “gaming” the system.

Glazer:

Actually, it’s outright corruption. Actually, I know of some examples of fundamental corruption that I reported to the Research Council at one stage.

Whatmore:

That’s impressive. What about your views on the role and activities of professional bodies?

Glazer:

What sort of bodies are you thinking of?

Opinions on Learned Societies

Whatmore:

Learned societies like the Royal Society, Institute of Physics ...

Glazer:

Well, both of those two you mention, I’ve fallen-out with in one way or another. The Institute of Physic, first of all, which I was a member of for 40 years, several years ago, when I decided to hold the exhibition on the Braggs, which I told you about before, I applied to the Institute of Physics for money to help cover the costs and they said: “Well, we don’t give sponsorship, but we have this system of money you can apply for, for” ... what do we call it ... “public engagement”. So, I put in an application for £1,000. I didn’t really care if I got the money, actually. All I wanted was to be able to say: “sponsored by the IoP” – that’s all I needed. It got turned down because they said they didn’t think that the public would be interested. So, I contacted the President of the IoP and I told him about this. He said he was shocked. He said: “We’ll get somebody to go around to the different groups in the Institute of Physics and see if they would like to provide some sponsorship.” Remember – I only wanted the name. I didn’t hear anything for a while. Eventually, someone came back and said: “Sorry, none of them are interested.” At this point I blew up. I wrote back to the Institute of Physics and said: “I resign my position immediately, I don’t wish to be a member of an organization that is dead from the feet-up.” They wrote back to me saying: “We are cancelling your direct debit.” I said: “Too late, I’ve already done it.” So, that was the end of the IoP as far as I was concerned. All the other institutes I contacted, they all pitched-in supplying funds ...

Whatmore:

Apart from the IoP ...

Glazer:

Apart from the IoP ... and W.H. Bragg was the President of the IoP at one stage.

Whatmore:

That’s extraordinary!

Glazer:

It’s extraordinary! It’s extraordinary that they couldn’t see it for themselves, to understand that this was important – but there you go! The Royal Society is a different story. I’ve never been particularly interested in honours. I tend to turn them down. When I first came to Oxford, I was offered a medal and I turned it down. I said:” Look, I’ve got a permanent position – give it to a young person who needs a job. I don’t need it.” So, I turned that down. I’ve always been like that. I’ve never seen the point of them, to be honest – to have a medal and then stick it in a safe somewhere. I don’t believe in that sort of thing. Anyway, somebody at College, who was a Fellow of the Royal Society kept nagging me and saying: “You really should apply to the Royal Society.” I just kept saying no, I couldn’t be bothered with it. Eventually – he kept pushing me – so I said: “OK, I’ll do it.” So, I contacted a well-known crystallographer - a Fellow of the Royal Society – and said: “Will you care to sponsor me in this?” He said: “Yes, of course, send me your CV and so-on, what you’ve been doing, blah, blah, blah – and I’ll make the case.” And then he submitted it. So, this is something you do every year, and every year you get a message saying: “You haven’t been chosen this year, but up-date your CV and so-on, tell us anything new that’s happened.” Well, in a year not a lot happens, and each year they were doing this, and I was getting more-and-more annoyed with this whole process, because I felt a bit like the poor man at the rich man’s house, knocking on the door and saying: “Please let me in.” You get to a point – I think it’s after seven years – where having been turned-down you come off the list for three years and then you can go back again. So, my sponsor said: “In three years’ time, we’ll go back again.” I remember saying: “No, thank you. I can’t be bothered with this!”. I find the whole process demeaning. I don’t want to know. That’s where I left it with the Royal Society.

Whatmore:

Right.

Glazer:

Meanwhile, my first research student at Oxford was made a Fellow of the Royal Society three years ago.

Whatmore:

Bill David?

Glazer:

Bill David. And Yvonne Jones, who was one of my undergraduate students, was made a Fellow of the Royal Society last year. So, that I’m pleased about – for them.

Whatmore:

Yes, for them ...

Glazer:

I don’t care for me.

Whatmore:

I tend to take a similar view to you, Mike, I must admit.

Glazer:

I don’t like these organizations to be honest. The Royal Society of Chemistry – I’ve just been made – I don’t know what they call it – an Honorary Member or something. I’m very happy with that because the RSC has been very good to me – as I say, with the exhibition, they piled straight in and helped immediately – they took the right view.

Whatmore:

I always think about Richard Feynman’s views ...

Glazer:

Very similar. He and I would have hit it off.

Whatmore:

You know what I’m talking about?

Glazer:

I know what you’re taking about. He was on the NSF and they were having a discussion about who could join, and they refused to put a chemist on, because they had too many chemists. That annoyed him, and he resigned from the NSF. He thought it should go on merit not on how many people you had of any particular discipline. The Royal Society does that as well, I’m afraid. It tends to have these nominal quotas.

Future of Perovskites and Ferroelectrics

Whatmore:

Mike, you’ve done a fantastic job of giving us the history of your activities.

Glazer:

I do feel like I’ve been through a lot in my years.

Whatmore:

You have, you have! Ferroelectrics, perovskites and their importance and where they’re going now ... particularly perovskites, because perovskites are really taking off now ...

Glazer:

Because of photovoltaics ...

Whatmore:

Because of photovoltaics ... What are your views on that? You gave a very good talk at the Royal Institution last year on perovskites.

Glazer:

That was very enjoyable. There’s a funny procedure – perhaps we can record it here – what happens at the Royal Institution. They have these things called the “Friday Evening Discourses”. The first one I went to was when I was a student with Kathleen Lonsdale – she invited me there – and in those days people used to turn-up to this lecture in dinner suits, with the ladies in ball-gowns. They don’t do that any more. The Friday Evening Discourse lecturer – 15 minutes before the lecture - is imprisoned in a room and not allowed out. It goes back to Wheatstone, who when he was doing a Friday Evening Discourse, he panicked at the last minute and ran away down the road and they had to go and capture him. So, ever since then the speaker has to be imprisoned in a room for 15 minutes and then they come and fetch you, and they put you behind the doors to the lecture room, which are shut, and when the bell goes, the doors open, and you’re kind-of propelled into the room to start your lecture. They don’t make any introductions, you just go straight into the lecture.

Whatmore:

That’s such a lovely story! I love that! I didn’t know that.

Glazer:

It’s good fun!

Whatmore:

So, the important of perovskites and ferroelectrics going forward. They never seem to die do they?

Glazer:

They don’t die, do they? Yes, when I look back, as I said when I began – Helen and I, there were maybe a dozen perovskite papers being published in a year. Now, if you Google “perovskite” you get 200,000 in a year or maybe more. Now, there was a jump when the high temperature superconductors were discovered, because they’re all based on the perovskite structure. Alex Muller – when he discovered that – I remember when he got the Nobel Prize – he sent me a card saying something about, you know, “Hooray for perovskites”.

Whatmore:

Right – that’s lovely! I remember listening to a talk he gave in 1983 at a Ferroelectrics conference in Buenemaldena in Spain, when he was talking about superconductivity in oxides and perovskites and I didn’t really understand it but he was obviously thinking then about what would eventually come to fruition later in that decade.

Glazer:

Well, before he got his Nobel Prize, I invited him to Oxford to give a talk here. In those days he was working mainly on strontium titanate, which was an academic matter, really, if anything – probably the most-studied phase transition of all. I invited him to give a talk – in a big lecture theatre – and the audience consisted of about three people. About 2 years’ later, he comes back, he’s got the Nobel Prize. He spoke in the main lecture theatre and you couldn’t get into the room! Same guy! That was an interesting lesson.

Whatmore:

Interesting – that is interesting!

Glazer:

So, where’s it going? Who knows? It’s at the moment on an upward trajectory. A lot’s going to depend upon the success of the photovoltaic work. It’s still got to prove itself as a device.

Whatmore:

It has ...

Glazer:

The person mainly responsible for it is here in the Clarendon – a colleague of mine, that’s Henry Snaith – who, by the way, I think he was on the nomination list for the Nobel this year. If he gets that right and succeeds, I think that’s a likely Nobel Prize coming-up. Oxford doesn’t have many! He was originally employed to be my replacement when I retired, in fact.

Whatmore:

Really?

Glazer:

I had a word with him and kind-of talked him out of it. I said: “You don’t want to get involved in the college too much, because you’ll kill your research”, so he resigned from it. So they employed somebody else.

Whatmore:

So, ferroelectrics and the link between structure and properties – where do you think it’s going to go? Do you think this whole business of disorder – disordered islands, ordered islands – you can see that coming together from a number of different directions, whether it’s relaxors, or your recent work on the PZT system ...

Glazer:

Oh, relaxors are all-about disorder, but a different sort of disorder. That’s more to do with polar disorder than anything else. PZT is pretty-well unique. I don’t know any other system that behaves like that one, and it’s still the main material for ceramic perovskites and ceramic piezoelectrics – it’s still the main material. There are competitors out there, but they still don’t beat PZT as an industrial material, because PZT’s so cheap and easy to make. PZT-based materials also. Where do ferroelectrics go? We’ve been arguing about that for as long as I can remember. Back in the day, we though that ferroelectrics would be good for computer switching and so-on – never really “did it”.

Whatmore:

Well ...

Glazer:

There are DRAM’s

Whatmore:

And FRAM’s ...

Glazer:

And FRAM’s – they work

Whatmore:

They work, there’s no question of that ...

Glazer:

I don’t know where that’s going to go because it’s not my area. When you start getting into the electronics area, it gets “beyond my pay-grade”, so I don’t know. The perovskite photovoltaics – that’s going to depend whether they ever get a cheap, working device that overtakes silicon.

Whatmore:

I noticed that the latest edition of Nature had a paper on lithium niobate Mach-Zender interferometers operating at CMOS voltages.

Glazer:

Lithium niobate?

Whatmore:

Lithium niobate. This was using lithium niobate film that had been cleaved-off a single crystal and then micromachined so you can make the waveguide very small and drive it from a very low voltage. That’s just been published.

Glazer:

That’s going to go somewhere is it?

Whatmore:

Who knows ... but one of the problems with lithium niobate has always been for lithium niobate integrated optic devices, the drive voltage. But now, if you can drive it from 1.3V, that looks very interesting.

Glazer:

But, you always have the problem of the stoichiometry of lithium niobate. It can be variable and that can cause problems. It’s one of the down-sides of lithium niobate – the congruent melting composition isn’t exactly at the 1:1 ratio of Li to Nb.

Outside Interests – Aviation etc

Whatmore:

Very good. People are interested in other interests as well. We talked earlier about your interests in sailing and you building a boat when you were in Cambridge, but you’ve got lots of other interests as well. I know that aviation and flying as always been a big interest for you – at least since you’ve been at Oxford. How did you get involved in that?

Glazer:

When I was 45, I had enough money to do it! That had come from another thing that I got involved in and that’s acting as an expert witness in pharmaceutical cases mainly. I’ve done a lot of those and that brought in a lot of money. In fact, one of the first ones that I was involved in was a big case in Washington, and I was flying across on Concorde. I did five Concorde trips, paid-for by the lawyers! On my first trip, I found myself sitting next to some man who was, in fact, on the flight sent there by the CAA in order to evaluate the route that Concorde was taking. We were chatting, and I said I was always interested in flying but had never done it. So, when I got back he sent me a note with a list of clubs, and so I went to Northampton – Sywell Aerodrome – and had a trial lesson and didn’t stop after that, but it was paid for because of the work I was doing as an expert witness.

Whatmore:

So, that’s how you learned to fly. And you had a friend here in Oxford who flew as well, didn’t you, one of your colleague?

Glazer:

Yes, there are several people here who fly, but I had one person here who I flew with a lot, but he died a few years ago, unfortunately – John Siertsema his name was. We shared a plane for a while, but he died about seven or eight years ago.

Whatmore:

You have your own aircraft as well, don’t you? In fact, I think the last time we spoke you had two aircraft, didn’t you?

Glazer:

I had two aircraft. One was a Cirrus, from the USA, which I still have. The other one was a British plane. Pam actually took lessons on it and got a pilot’s license, but didn’t continue with it, partly because that ‘plane crashed, killing the pilot and a student.

Whatmore:

I remember that – it went into a spin, didn’t it?

Glazer:

It went into a spin – not far from you, close to Towcester.

Whatmore:

Yes, it crashed close to the A5. I remember that. You’ve had a long association with the airfield at Turweston, haven’t you? You’re not just based there, but you do things with them, don’t you?

Glazer:

Originally, we were based in Oxford, and then we moved to Turweston, because it’s an easier airfield to work from ...

Whatmore:

It’s small, isn’t it ...

Glazer:

Because it’s small, although it’s actually enlarged now and it’s got a very nice community. They’ve got a new control tower, a really nice restaurant. The runway’s been extended so it’s the same as Oxford’s in length. They can get jets in. We see a lot of interesting aircraft there.

Whatmore:

I guess they service the people going to Silverstone grand prix?

Glazer:

They do, indeed. A lot of the drivers fly in and then they’re taken across the fields through the back lanes to the race track – it’s only a few minutes away. It’s a very nice airfield – very pleasant.

Whatmore:

And you’re still very keen?

Glazer:

Oh, yes. I don’t fly as much as I used to, partly because I’m even busier now than I was before I retired, but as I get older, I get more cautious. I don’t do the sort of things I used to. I don’t do aerobatics any more, or anything like that.

Whatmore:

I know you have a full instrument rating, which is quite technical. Do you think that is an extension of your general interests in technology?

Glazer:

Yes, I do. I am very happy to be in-clouds with no visibility and just using instruments. I quite enjoy that. And the whole process of making an approach in bad weather – I enjoy that as well. You come down through all this muck in the clouds, you’ve travelled a long distance and suddenly there’s the runway, right in front of you. That’s a wonderful feeling when you see that! I thoroughly enjoy that!

Whatmore:

Do you think there is something about your brain, the whole business of thinking in three-dimensions, which feeds from crystallography, although it’s a completely different scale, which feeds into moving in three dimensions in the atmosphere?

Glazer:

I don’t know about that. I see all these other people doing it who have no interest in crystallography – and they do it better than me! They can land an aircraft better than I can! My landings are sometimes ok ...

Whatmore:

Well, you know what they say: “A good landing is any landing you walk away from”!

Glazer:

Well, so far, I’ve walked away from every one. Originally, when I was a student up in Dundee, I wanted to do flying there and was going to join the RAF cadets, but my mother dissuaded me from doing it because she said it was too dangerous, and so I listened to her. So, that’s a lesson – don’t listen to your mother!

Whatmore:

Well, you don’t know. If you hadn’t listened to your mother, you might have been seduced into a career in flying and we would have missed out on your contributions to crystallography!

Glazer:

Well, I might have enjoyed flying all over the world.

Whatmore:

I think you’d have been bored!

Glazer:

Maybe. I think long-range flying on commercial aeroplanes can be very boring. I recently had an invitation to Heathrow to have a go on a new 777 simulator, with British Airways. They have 13 simulators there – full motion things. You go in there and you might as well be in the cockpit of an aircraft. It has all the sensations. A friend of mine, who is a BA captain arranged it. I did various take-offs and landings, emergencies and so-on. I discovered that it’s really very easy. It’s easier than flying a light aircraft.

Whatmore:

Well, of course, the Cirrus that you fly is quite a technical aircraft, isn’t it?

Glazer:

Oh, yes, it’s a powerful machine.

Whatmore:

So, it’s not a huge jump to go from there with all its systems to a full glass cockpit in a 777.

Glazer:

You’ve got to keep ahead of the aircraft, or you’ll be in trouble.

Whatmore:

Other interests. I know you’ve had interests in music – playing guitar – would you like to say a few words about that?

Glazer:

Yes, I decided to play the guitar. It goes back to being a teenager. I play guitar for a while in a jazz band, actually, but that didn’t last very long because I got busy with the university and everything, so that stopped. But, in later years I decided to take up the classical guitar, so I taught myself, and then I took up flamenco guitar, but I haven’t played it now for 10 years! I keep saying to myself that I must go back to it.

Whatmore:

With all the spare time you’ve got?

Glazer:

That’s the trouble. I don’t have spare time!

Whatmore:

And languages – you’re also interested in languages, aren’t you?

Glazer:

Yes, I speak several languages. I worked in Rome for a while, for a pharmaceutical company, back in 1963. That was while I was at the university. It was a whole summer. I learned Italian there. I pick-up languages very quickly. If I’m in a country for more than a week, I’ve already started to speak. I can’t explain to you why, but I do! Anyway, I spoke German, French, Italian ...

Whatmore:

Polish?

Glazer:

That came later, when I started working in Poland I picked-up a fair amount of Polish. But, I was getting confused between all these different European languages, so I thought that I must find something completely different, so I decided to study Chinese – Mandarin - while I was a graduate student. I did that alongside while I was doing my research. When I was at Harvard, I did a year studying Chinese, auditing the Chinese classes – so I did three years Chinese. Got as far as reading about 1,000 characters.

Whatmore:

Is that still with you?

Glazer:

No. Chinese is one of those languages that, if you don’t keep it going, you forget it and you have to start again! It’s not like European languages that come much more naturally. Use it or lose it! The characters especially as they are so complex.

Conclusion

Whatmore:

Mike, is there anything else you want to cover?

Glazer:

The only other thing I would say is that I’m very grateful that you were my first research student and we’ve remained friends ever since.

Whatmore:

That’s very kind of you, Mike – thank you for saying that.

Glazer:

We never fell-out!

Whatmore:

(Laughing) Thank you, Mike! That’s true, and it’s been an honour to have worked with you over all these years and to have had you as a friend and it’s been an honour to interview you. I’m sure that the readers of this oral history will find it fascinating. Thank you very much indeed for your time today.

Glazer:

Thank you – thank you for asking me to do this.

Supporting Resources

Books Referred to During Interview

  • Glazer, A. M., Burns, G. & Glazer, A. N. Space groups for solid state scientists. (Elsevier, 2012).
  • Glazer, A. M. Crystallography: A Very Short Introduction. Vol. 469 (Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • Glazer, A. M. & Thomson, P. Crystal clear: the autobiographies of Sir Lawrence and Lady Bragg. (OUP Oxford, 2015).