Technicians and laboratory assistants
From its earliest days, the University College recognised that "lab boys" and "assistants" were essential to scientific study. Although many were hired, few appear in the archives.
Technicians’ work increased teaching and research capacity over the decades, and they performed demonstrations for generations of students.
However, they have not always felt valued and, as the University expanded, often worked longer hours at lower pay than seemed fair. In 1965, some of these issues were addressed after 60 technicians took strike action.
The first chemistry lab technician, known as “Cobble”, stayed at Leicester for 30 years. His “first name seemed to be secret”, says alumnus Allard Johnson, who reports he won many a game of Solo during wartime firewatching nights.
AH Cobble was "a great multi-talented – including glassblowing – asset”, says alumnus Frank Rodwell.
After the war, a junior laboratory assistant called Terry Garfield arrived and became a University stalwart – not just for technical abilities and rising to Chief Technician.
He established a map and atlas collection, began a tradition of cartography and was a founder member of the Society of University Cartographers.
He retired in 1992 after 46 years. “The University was my life and I enjoyed every moment of working here and taking part socially,” he said.