Ref NoAUD/002/OHP 59
TitleVenables, Peter H. - Recording
SiteInterviewee's sitting room in York.
Date3 August 2010
Extent1-Audio Cassette
DescriptionAudio cassette sound recording of an interview with Professor Peter H.Venables, FBPsS, President of the British Psychological Society 1979-1980, University of York for the British Psychological Society's Oral History project.

The interview was conducted by Adrian Skinner in 2010.

Professor Peter Venables (PV)
Adrian Skinner (AS)

Topics covered:

Running order:

AS introduces PV and asks him where he was and what gave him an interest in psychology

PV talks of his boyhood days, his desire to do research and how he started work as a Post office engineer (start of WWII) before joining the Navy (later in WWII).

PV speaks of his experiences as a Post office engineer before moving on to his time in the Navy including: his officer training course in Ipswich, a training cruiser in the North Sea, becoming a radar mechanic, black box training tool, Northumberland polytechnic and how he spent three years in the Royal Navy (as a mechanic) finishing up in Portland.

PV speaks of the advice he received to go to University College London, how he got in (at UCL) and how he failed his first-year French, his tutors Professor Cyril Burt, Roger Russell, factor analysis, animal behaviour, influential books on organisational behaviour by Hull, J McVie Hunt (Personality And The Behavior Disorders), psychological deficits and his fellow student at UCL, George Talland.

PV talks of his early career and how he started work in the MRC unit at the Maudsley recalling the influence of Aubrey Lewis and other colleagues
including: Jack Tizard, Neil O'Connor, George Brown, Maurice Carstairs, John Wing, in addition PV speaks of Beate Hermelin, Hollingshead and how spent 14 years at the MRC.

PV continues to talk of his time at the MRC, his thesis on Bus conductors, Cambridge Cockpit, PGR apparatus, the unit's work on schizophrenia, David Shakow's studies (US), McVie's studies and his time at Springfield Hospital.

PV talks of John Wing a psychiatrist, schizophrenia, Banstead Hospital studies, the influence of Hick's study on information processing, his book chapter from 1964, entitled 'Input dysfunction in schizophrenia' which he considers his most influential writing [30:54], Aubrey Lewis' retirement (1964), Jack Tizard's move to the Thomas Coram Unit, Neil O'Connor and Maurice Carstairs.

PV speaks of his decision to move into academia as Reader at Birkbeck College, London. His invitations to talk in the USA, travelling in America, how he met Barry Shaberin at an APA conference in LA, nightlife, how he met Joe Zubin, New York Psychiatric Unit, Sam Sutton, P300 evoke response, a study by Donald Lindsley, his work with Gabriel Horn on a study of single neurons (Cambridge) and his paper with Horn in 1964.

PV talks of his time at Birkbeck college, how in 1961 he met Mednik at the IoP in Copenhagen, setting up a study on children of high risk of schizophrenia because their parents were schizophrenic, proposals for another study, a study in Mauritius, skin conductance, MRC funds for the Mauritius study which is still running with Adrian Raine and speaks at length of the Mauritius study.

AS asks PV to comment about the advances in psychological treatment over the last 30 years and the sparse link between theoretical and applied work over this time.

PV agrees and talks of CBT and scanning methodology, the effects of smoking/ alcohol and mothers' flu in pregnancies.
PV mentions Keith Joseph MP, poverty, lack of education, smoking and drinking and the deprivation idea.

AS asks PV if he moved straight from Birkbeck College to York University.

PV replies that he did in 1974 before speaking of an early professorial board meeting at York, the psychology department at York, certain restrictions,
his pleasure that the Research Assessment Exercise gave 5 stars (for research), his ideas about teaching in psychology and the early days of the psychology department at York.

AS asks PV to talk about areas outside psychology.

PV speaks of his family and other matters.

As thanks PV for granting the project an interview.


Total Running Time: c 63mins

Summary by Mike Maskill, BPS Archivist.
RunTimeOn one Audio cassette, running time c 63minutesins.
FormatAudio Cassette
NotesThe History of Psychology Centre is committed to creating an inclusive environment for all our users. Be aware that our catalogue contains historic terminology relating to mental health which could be considered offensive. The terminology exists within the original record and has been retained to inform users on viewpoints at the time. It in no way reflects the attitudes of the cataloguers or the British Psychological Society.
AccessConditionsAuthorised Users. View by Appointment
Location13: BPS History of Psychology Centre, London
Medical psychology
Clinical psychology
AdminHistoryDate of Birth: 3 April 1923
Place of Birth: Ilfracombe, Devon, England.

University and Professional Training:
BA (Hons) Psychology, University College, London, 1951
PhD Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, London, 1953

Other Honours and Awards:
Hon DSc (Life Sciences), University of Bradford, 1978
Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychophysiology, Society for Psychophysiological Research, 1987
Zubin Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Discipline, Society for Research in Psychopatholgy , 1990
Honorary Member. Experimental Psychology Society, 1993

Professional career:
Post Office Engineer, 1939-1941
Radar Mechanic, Royal Navy, 1942-?
Medical Research Council, Maudsley Hospital, Scientific Staff, Social Psychiatry Research Unit, University of London, 1951-1964
Reader, Department of Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, 1964 1967
Professor, (Personal chair), Department of Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, 1967 1974
Dean of the Faculty of Science, Birkbeck College, University of London, 1968 1970
Professor and Head of Department, (Foundation Chair), Department of Psychology, University of York, 1974 1988
Pro Vice Chancellor, University of York, 1981 1985
Honorary Research Professor, Department of Psychology, University of York, 1988 1996
Professor Emeritus, University of York, 1997 -
Honorary Research Appointments,
Research Associate, Psykologisk Institut, Copenhagen, 1971 1988
Chief Co investigator, Joint Child Health Project, Mauritius, 1972 1996
Permanent Member , Joint Child Health Project, Mauritius, 1996 -

Involvement with BPS and/or other societies and organisations:
Attached Member BPS, late 1940s
Treasurer, British Psychological Society, 1963 1965
Deputy President, British Psychological Society, 1965 1966
Secretary, Experimental Psychology Society, 1962 1966
President, Experimental Psychology Society, 1968 1970
President, Society for Psychophysiological Research, 1977 1978
President, British Psychological Society, 1979 1980
Fellow, British Psychological Society, (nd)
Foundation Editor, Biological Psychology, (nd)
Editorial Board, Journal of Psychophysiology, (nd)
RulesDescription compiled in line with the following: ISAD (G) General International Standard Archival Description MAD3 Third Edition 2000
ArchNoteCompiled by Mike Maskill BPS Archivist for the History of Psychology Centre.

Show related Persons records.

BPS/GB/211Venables; Peter Henry (1923-); Professor; FBPsS1923-
BPS/GB/133Tizard; Jack (1919-1979); Dr; FBPsS1919-1979
BPS/GB/01Burt; Sir; Cyril Lodowic (1883-1971); Professor1883-1971
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