Phyllis Landor and her husband Stephen (both PhD Chemistry 1951) completed their PhDs under Dr Rydon at Imperial. After helping the war effort just outside of London, the Landors jumped at the chance to become research students at the College. Phyllis talks about her memories of her education and her career.
I was a pupil at Southampton Grammar School and was evacuated during the war to Bournemouth. After a third year in the sixth form, I gained a place at Girton College, Cambridge in 1943 but was called up for active service as the war was short of service personnel.
Thanks to my Chemistry teacher and the headmistress, I was called for an interview at ICI Plastics in Welwyn Garden City. After an interview and my insistence on working in the Organic Research Lab, I was fortunate to work under the Head of Laboratory Dr Crawford, the inventor or Perspex. At ICI we were working to strengthen Perspex so the pilots of the Spitfires did not receive so many injuries. ICI gave us one day a week to travel to London to start our degree courses. I attended Sir John Cass College and gained a University of London degree.
I met my future husband at ICI and his professor, Dr Rydon, had just been appointed at Imperial and he offered us the chance to come to Imperial as his research students. We were the first married research students at Imperial and, to our embarrassment, we were often shown off to American visitors! There was one other girl in the Organic Research Lab. After we passed our PhDs, we were interviewed by Professor D Barton from Manchester University and offered assistant lectureships. We were over the moon and went out in London to celebrate!
The next day I received a letter from Professor Barton to say the Vice-Chancellor at Manchester would not accept husband and wife in the same department! So, he offered me a post doc position instead! It was too late to alter our plans, so off we went to Manchester to start our academic careers and our life’s research into the chemistry of Allenes which was published in 1982 to which I contributed several chapters on synthesis.
We used to ice skate at Queens across the park! Many students at that time had just returned from the war and they were always planning to blow up the Albert Memorial and the other students were asked for donations for the police fines! We were so lucky to do research at Imperial with its well-equipped labs and our wonderful fellow students.
You can read another interview with Phyllis and Stephen as they shared their experiences of Chemistry at Imperial as part of the College Centenary celebrations.