Norris, Keith

Interview conducted by Professor Tilli Tansey and Professor Bob Maynard, for the History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group, 15 December 2015, in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Transcribed by Mrs Debra Gee, and edited by Professor Tilli Tansey and Professor Bob Maynard. The project management and the technical support (video production and editing) were undertaken by Mr Adam Wilkinson and Mr Alan Yabsley, respectively.
 
Dr Keith Norris BSc PhD (b. 1928) trained as a biophysicist at King’s College London under M F H Wilkins (later FRS and Nobel Prize winner for his contributions to the study of the structure of DNA), where he developed reflecting microscopes for the study of DNA with ultraviolet and infrared radiation. He joined the Microbiological Research Department, Porton, to apply physical methods, including infrared spectroscopy for the detection and identification of bacteria in the atmosphere, becoming Head of Aerobiology and Field Trials, before moving to the Chemical Defence Establishment (CDE), Porton, as Deputy Director responsible for the development of chemical defensive equipment, and then to the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall as Director for Chemical and Biological Research and Director for Internal Security Research, at the time when the United Kingdom was taking the lead in establishing the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. He then spent two years as Scientific Adviser to the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland. Retiring in 1983, he became a Consultant to the Director of the CDE and a part-time Regional Scientific Adviser to the Home Office, and served on the Home Office Home Defence Scientific Advisory Council until 1993, when Civil Defence was abandoned by the Government.
 
The History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group is funded by the Wellcome Trust, which is a registered charity (no. 210183). The current interview has been funded by the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award entitled “Makers of modern biomedicine: testimonies and legacy” (2012-2017; awarded to Professor Tilli Tansey).
 
The interview is part of the History of the Modern Biomedicine Interviews (Digital Collection).
 
Access to the History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group’s website:
 
Access to the transcript of this video interview and its related material: 
History of Modern Biomedicine Interviews (Digital Collection), items e2017002-e2017011.
 
Example of how to cite: Tansey E M, Maynard R (intvrs); Yabsley A (prod) (2017) Norris, Keith: 01 - Early years at King’s College; Maurice Wilkins (15-Dec-2015). History of Modern Biomedicine Interviews (Digital Collection), item e2017025. London: Queen Mary University of London.
 
Access to the transcript of a longer, audio interview:
 
Note: Video interviews are conducted following standard oral history methodology, and have received ethical approval (reference QMREC 0642). Video interview transcripts are edited only for clarity and factual accuracy. Related material has been deposited in the Wellcome Library.
 
© The Trustee of the Wellcome Trust, London, 2017
 
Related material: Wellcome Witness Seminar on Air Pollution Research in Britain c.1955–c.2000.