Science fiction and science fact from the 1960s

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It was classic Sixties film fare, featuring Roy Thinnes, Herbert Lom and Ian Hendry, with screenplay by Gerry and Silvia Anderson of Thunderbirds fame. In the story, a planet is discovered on the same orbital path as the Earth, but on the opposite side of the Sun. A space mission is launched to check it out, and only one astronaut makes it back, when it is revealed that not only can he read backwards, but that his internal organs have moved to the ‘wrong’ side of his body.

It seems that the planet behind the Sun is a kind of parallel Earth, and travelling there inverts everything, including human physiology.



Cambridge Instruments, 1970

In the movie, mad scientist Patrick Wymark uses a bank of high-tech machinery to check out the astronaut’s body – machinery made in Cambridge. It was a pair of dummy consoles, created by experts at the Cambridge Scientific Instruments Company and dubbed a ‘multi-channel physiological recorder’ in the film – and Wymark is shown in our photo above, at the firm’s Chesterton Road labs, doing a bit of practice knob-twiddling.

Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company came into being in 1881 and was founded by Albert George Dew-Smith and Horace Darwin, son of the Father of Evolution, Charles Darwin. The two men were at Trinity College together as students, and after university Dew-Smith had become a designer of scientific instruments and Darwin went to work for an engineering firm in Kent.



Cambridge Instruments children’s party, 1960

They realised that there was a huge demand for precision instruments that could be used in scientific research and medicine, and one of their first inventions was the Cambridge Rocking Microtome, a device designed by Darwin that used a swinging blade to slice sections of biological material so that they could be studied under a microscope.

They also teamed up with Willem Einthoven, the inventor of the electrocadiograph, to manufacture the machine, which measures electrical impulses in the heart. And in the Fifties and Sixties, the firm helped to pioneer another great invention, the scanning electron microscope, which uses a beam of electrons to examine objects on a minute scale.

The equipment the company designed was not just of benefit to science. It also played a significant role in supporting the First and Second World War efforts.



Women engineers at Cambridge Instruments,1969

Among the employees who went on to further renown were William Pye, who established the W G Pye Instrument Company, laying the foundation for the ground-breaking TV and radio group, and Robert Stewart Whipple, who amassed an enormous collection of antique scientific instruments that later became the principal asset of Cambridge’s Whipple Museum of the History of Science.

Our archive photographs here include a group of female engineers pictured in 1969, and some young apprentices – we think – in 1970. The other picture is not a scene from Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun, but a 1960 photo of a party for the children of Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company workers.

In its latter days, the firm was simply known as Cambridge Instruments.

Did you work at the company in any capacity? What sort of place was it? Send us your recollections and photos – we will publish the best of them.



Football team with trophies and board members, 1963

Football, fashion, and a children’s party at Fulbourn Hospital are also among our offerings this weekend.

The footballers are members of a Cambridge squad in 1963, pictured in front of their clubhouse with a stack of trophies. The chaps in suits are members of the board. If you see any faces you recognise, and can tell us more about the team’s exploits, get in touch.



Newmarket Secondary Modern School fashion show, 1966

The fashion photo harks back to December 1966, and features two young ladies wearing what was then high chic. Is that a gonk one of them is holding? The picture was taken at Newmarket Secondary Modern School’s Christmas fashion show.

Our children’s party at Fulbourn was also a Christmas event, happening a few days before Christmas Day in 1968, and the youngsters were the little ones of helpers working at the hospital.



Fulbourn Hospital helper’s childrens party, 1968


Bike winner, 1991

Who is the little lad, sitting as proud as Punch on a brand new bike he has won in a competition, in 1991? And is that Mary Archer, singing her heart out in a choir at Grantchester in 1990?



Grantchester, 1990


Pearly Kings and Queens at Chesterton Hospital, 1983

Another local hospital is also in the spotlight here, the old Chesterton Hospital. Patients there in December 1983 are clearly enjoying a visit by royalty – a group of musical Pearly Kings and Queens.

Christmas is coming up fast, and we will have lots of festive Memories coverage to entertain you. If you have any Christmassy stories to tell, we would love to hear them. Does one Christmas Past stand out in your memory? Do you recall a lovely White Christmas? What about your first-ever Christmas recollections from childhood? Send in your emails, letters and photos.

Memories of Prince Charles’s time in Cambridge as a student were rekindled this week – by the heir to the throne himself.

Visiting the Fitzwilliam Museum, he reminded an audience there that next year will be the 50th anniversary of his arrival at Trinity College to begin a degree course.



Prince Charles arrives at Trinity College, 1967

The prince also revealed he had been knocked off his bike by a bus outside the museum as a student, a story not generally known.

In fact, Prince Charles’s three-year stay in the city – which was interrupted by a term away at the University College of Wales so he could learn Welsh ahead of his investiture – was pretty exciting all round.

He was greeted in 1967 by a media scrum, but after enduring all the attention, and overcoming his freshman nerves, he threw himself wholeheartedly into the student scene. In 1969, he took part in the Trinity College comedy revue, entitled Revolution, in which he was famously ‘interviewed’ in a dustbin. He was back on stage in the same show the following year, taking part in a sketch where he got tangled up in a set of bagpipes.



Prince Charles in Trinity College review Revolution, 1969

He also learned about what life was like for the rest of us non-royals, on one occasion getting an unexpected visit from his mum, and cooking lunch for her himself in his rooms, preparing it in his own little kitchen – and serving up a splendid feast of steak pie, mashed potato and peas.

Mick Byrd was a decent footballer in his younger days, and he has dipped into his photo album to send us a Cambridge line-up from the late 1950s.

The picture was taken on Lammas Land, and shows the Junior YMCA Colts, with Mick fifth from the left in the back row.



YMCA Junior Colts

The others in the photo are, back row left to right, Jim Byrd (supporter), Nigel Bailey, Graham Norden, Robin Farrington, Peter Reuben, Spencer Bowyer, and Les Brown (manager); front row, Charlie Irving, Ralph Yarrow, David Ponder, David Andrews, and Colin Lock.

Mick, now 74, said: “The youth league we played in was a very good standard. It featured the likes of Cambridge United, Cambridge City and Sawston, all of them containing good players, and many of whom went on to bigger things.

“My father, in the picture, which was taken I believe either in 1958 or 1959, was our only supporter however.”

If you have any sporting team pictures from the past, not necessarily with you in them, do send them in.

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