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Changing subjects at Cambridge (Part 2)


Changing subjects at Cambridge (Part 1)
Colin Renfrew Archaeologist
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As you know, in Cambridge it's very easy to change subjects so at Cambridge I was doing natural sciences for part one, the tripos is divided into two, so doing natural sciences, one did two years for part one and one did a combination of subjects so I did, I think, whole subject physics and organic chemistry and mathematics and advanced mathematics and history and philosophy of science, and biochemistry also, and that's just a mixture that one does and I enjoyed it very much, I found it challenging. I found it quite hard work. I found the mathematics quite hard, I did all right but not brilliantly well, and I think probably the reason I came to make the change was at the end of two years, I did reasonably - got 2:1, which is perfectly respectable, but it was - it turned out to be the history and philosophy of science that I really enjoyed and got into and it began to be clear to me that I wasn't that interested in the physics given that I didn't think I was going to be a great physicist, as I say, my maths didn't really seem to be clicking that well, and I wasn't that fascinated by an individual chemical compound. If you're going to go on to do research and organic chemistry, it might be to look at the properties of this particular compound, but I didn't think I was really interested that much in the properties of any particular compound and I began to think perhaps it would be really rather interesting to do archaeology seriously as one's subject and in Cambridge it was possible to change quite easily so when I went to see my tutor in St John's and said I think I'd like to think of changing to archaeology, it was the easiest thing in the world for him to say, well, that's fine, I'll arrange an appointment with Dr Daniel, Glyn Daniel, whom I already knew in the college and was able to talk about changing and he was very encouraging, made it very easy, and the thinking was that having done two years in part one in natural sciences, which was the normal thing to do, and, indeed, sufficient qualification with the exam to get the BA degree, but in archaeology and anthropology it was usually a one year part one and therefore a two year part two so the suggestion was that if I was going to change it would be better not to do the part one again but to take two years doing the part two archaeology which means that one course overall would be four years rather than three years, but that was quite readily agreed and the scholarship which I had was - seemed to be quite easily adjusted in that direction so the transition was quite a smooth one.

Baron Renfrew of Kaimsthorn is a British archaeologist known for his work on the dispersal of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and the prehistory of PIE languages. He has been Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge as well as Master of Jesus College and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Listeners: Paul Bahn

Paul Bahn studied archaeology at Cambridge where he did his doctoral thesis on the prehistory of the French Pyrenees. He is now Britain's foremost specialist on Ice Age art and on Easter Island, and led the team which discovered Britain's first Ice Age cave art at Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire, in 2003. He has authored and edited numerous books, including Journey Through the Ice Age, The Enigmas of Easter Island, Mammoths, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art, and, with Colin Renfrew, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice which was published in its 5th edition in 2008.

Duration: 3 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 14 May 2009