The well-thumbed University of Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus 1980-1981 sits on a bookcase in my study; inside is a letter from N. W. Tanner, Tutor for Admissions, inviting me to a pre-A level interview for Chemistry on Friday 5 October 1979. I thought that as a female, comprehensive school candidate the special scheme at Hertford was my opportunity to be offered a place at a university still dominated by males from public schools. I was not offered a Tanner place but the exposure to Oxford had confirmed my ambition and I proceeded to take the pre-A level entrance examination. Running was my passion and by Christmas of my first year I had already raced in the cross country varsity match. For two years I was women’s captain of the cross country section of Oxford University Athletic Club.
I went on to study Medicine and work as a GP but this career change was facilitated by experiences at Hertford. A Geography undergraduate two years above me took a similar route. A PPE undergraduate introduced me to a club which enabled me to visit brain injured young people and adults with severe learning disability. I attended college chapel and was stimulated by eminent speakers including members of the medical profession. I still never hear John 1 without remembering Geoffrey Warnock reading it in chapel.
I met Adrian on day one but ironically we were never a couple until the summer following my part two year, after we had both left Hertford. Our wedding two years later was conducted by the college chaplain Michael Chantry and attended by our Chemistry tutor Keith McLauchlan. Hertford provided the environment for important life changes – meeting my future husband and deciding on my career as a medical doctor, rather than the research chemist I had envisioned in 1980.
Adrian Hough (Chemistry, 1977)
Episcopal vicar; chaplain to the Bishop of Exeter
It began when my aunt bought me a chemistry set for my eighth birthday. From then on I wanted to study Chemistry, but it never occurred to me that I should apply to Oxford until my head teacher persuaded me and suggested Hertford because of the Tanner Scheme. A year later I had both a place and a scholarship. I suspect I was successful because Keith McLauchlan only asked me questions about spectroscopy! I’m also grateful to Keith for teaching me not to write too many words in answering examination questions when a few short equations are far better. I took the concept to heart and still use this principle today.
On arrival at Hertford I also purchased my first SLR camera and began a commitment to regular attendance at chapel evensong. The outcome of both these decisions now plays a far larger part in my daily life than chemistry, although academically I describe myself as a chemist who is also a theologian and a photographer. Photography is both an art-form and chemistry, whilst the thought processes for theoretical chemistry and theology are very similar.
After staying on for a doctorate (in spectroscopy and theoretical chemistry) I spent six years building computer models of the atmosphere before returning to Oxford to read Theology and train for ordination. My parish ministry was spent mainly in Worcester Diocese with one year in Shetland Islands, but in 2006 I moved to Exeter where I work in the Bishop’s Office. Along the way, I’ve written several theological books and a number of papers, many of them on science and religion.
Keith McLauchlan’s biggest legacy in my life, however, was that he later went on to offer a place to a girl named Kathryn who became my wife. The final part of the equation (to date) has been censored by our daughter, so, in the words of a well-known writer of chemistry text-books, its content is left as an exercise for the reader.