Interviewed by
Michael Duncan
Interview date
Great Bealings, Suffolk, England

Interview with John Midwinter OBE, British electrical engineer and professor. The interview begins with reflections from Midwinter’s childhood in England and his early knack for building things. He describes his initial plans to attend agricultural college, but first had to complete two years of military service. He served in the Royal Air Force where he was introduced to radar, leading him to pursue physics and electronics in university. Midwinter describes his time at King’s College London and his decision to join the Scientific Civil Service upon graduation, wherein he was placed at the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern. There, Midwinter recalls focusing on nonlinear optics and completing his PhD while there. He discusses the offer he accepted from Perkin Elmer and his subsequent move to the US, where he met and worked with Frits Zernike. Midwinter then spent a short time at Allied Chemical in New Jersey, helping to build up their new Materials Research Center. He discusses moving back to England to work at British Telecom Research Labs, where he shifted into working on optical fiber communications. He describes the differences between research companies in the US and the UK, and the importance of conferences he attended during this time, such as the Optical Fiber Conference and European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC). Midwinter then recalls his new position at University College London, his transition away from fiber, and his interest in optical computing. He reflects on the administrative roles he found himself in within academia, as well as the pride he felt being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and being awarded OBE. The interview concludes with Midwinter’s recollections of the two successful books he wrote and his experience as a longtime member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE).