Experiment is an ITV schools TV series from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, covering Physics, Biology and Chemistry for further education students.
A series which does exactly what it says in the title - each episode is an advanced-level scientific experiment, filmed at Granada TV's local polytechnic and shown on screen either because schools would not normally have access to the specialist equipment needed, or because it would be too dangerous, expensive or difficult for pupils to carry out the experiment themselves.
The films are only part of the overall experience though, and the final results of the experiments are not always shown. Each episode typically involves the equipment being set up and then the experiment being run, with the readings and results shown at length on screen. Viewing pupils are expected to take down the readings - sometimes using their own stopwatch - and then perform calculations using additional information given in the accompanying workbooks to work out for themselves, for example, the charge on the electron or the constant of gravitation.
The producer explained how the series was intended to work:
“Instead of just "reading it up in a book", the student sees and experiences actual experiments as they are performed, extracting and processing the quantitative results which emerge. He must have the appropriate booklet himself (or at least ready access to a copy), and — most important — he will need thorough and careful preparation and guidance from the teacher, who should select in advance those programmes most appropriate for a particular group of students. "Experiment" has been produced as resource material, and it makes considerable demands on both teacher and pupil; if these demands are met, we hope that the effort will prove immensely worthwhile.”— Jack Smith, Producer, 1974
Although one of the most recognisable and ubiqiotous schools TV programmes of the 1970s and 80s (broadcast more than 60 times a year at its early 80s peak, and sometimes twice in the same day), Experiment was also one of the most narrowly-focussed. Designed specifically and only for science classes in sixth forms, the programmes only really make sense when accompanied by the booklet containing calculation details, and so a stray viewer stumbling across an experiment would never gain the full benefits and would likely learn only that they were required to write down a lot of numbers from the TV screen! In fact during the 1970s this series was ITV's only contribution to sixth form study.
Experiment effectively replaced Granada's earlier, long-running sixth form science series Discovery.
The series was not directly replaced when it came to a conclusion, but a few years later Channel 4 introduced a series called Science Bank, which similarly used animations and practical demonstrations to demonstrate experiments and concepts which would otherwise be difficult to achieve in the classroom.
The series first presented a set of Physics experiments in 1969, and these core films were shown frequently until 1986.
A new set of Chemistry experiments was added in 1975, and repeated until 1992.
Biology experiments were added in 1978. These programmes generally focussed on techniques for scientific investigation, including animal dissection.
A final set of new Physics experiments was shown in 1986. Originally supplementing repeats of the 1969 episodes, this new unit swiftly replaced them completely, and these were the final films repeated when the series came to an end in 1992.
The 4 experiments were filmed at the Department of Pure and Applied Physics, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology , which has also since been demolished - in fact it is so definitively demolished that even its postcode has been deleted.
The ITV Schools annual programme guide had previewed 5 new episodes to be shown this term, likely to include one on X-ray Crystallography which was never actually made.
The series was filmed in the science departments of Polytechnics, mostly local to Manchester where Granada TV was based. Many of these departments have since moved to new premises and the original buildings have been demolished.
"Write that down!" the gentle voice of Jack Smith would frequently urge viewers, every time a result or reading came up in the course of an experiment. An innocent home viewer stumbling upon the broadcast and not possessing the required booklet would be hard pressed to comply, although at the start of many films an announcement was made along the lines that "for this film you will need a notebook and pencil, and you must be ready to take readings from the screen".
The aesthetic of the series also sticks clearly in the mind. Equipment was demonstrated against a blue pastel backdrop, and sometimes wrapped in that colour if it wasn't the focus of attention - surely a legacy of the black-and-white televisions that most colleges would have possessed when the series started and the need to create good contrast.
To introduce or demonstrate any equipment a yellow pencil would usually enter the screen and point at the component or direction of travel that viewers need to understand. This hallmark was also present in other series produced by Jack Smith such as A Place to Live, but whereas the yellow pencil was packed away for the later episodes of that other series, it remained firmly in use throughout the entire run of Experiment.
Titles and Theme Tune
Programmes begin with the Granada Television logo.
In the 1960s and 70s the series had a very simple introduction, with a "theme tune" consisting of a sine wave sweeping increasing frequencies, and the title 'EXPERIMENT' shown in block capital white letters against footage of the equipment to be used that day.
Watch a clip on YouTube.
A few of the Biology episodes involving fieldwork rather than laboratory work played environmental background sound instead of the "theme tune".
The final four episodes produced in the 1980s have a fully-fledged, though short, animated title sequence and theme tune. Light is diffracted through the word 'EXPERIMENT' which then shimmers and resolves.
|1.||pV Isotherms of Carbon Dioxide: Part 1||22 Sep 1969|
|2.||pV Isotherms of Carbon Dioxide: Part 2||29 Sep 1969|
|3.||Cp/Cv for Helium, Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide||6 Oct 1969|
|4.||The Effect of Pressure on the Thermal Conductivity of a Gas||13 Oct 1969|
|5.||The Determination of Boltzmann's Constant||20 Oct 1969|
|6.||The Determination of the Velocity of Light||3 Nov 1969|
|7.||The Determination of the Velocity of Radio Waves||10 Nov 1969|
|8.||Electron Diffraction||17 Nov 1969|
|9.||The Determination of a Radio-Active Half-Life||24 Nov 1969|
|10.||The Determination of the Newtonian Constant of Gravitation||1 Dec 1969|
|11.||Empirical Formula by Microanalysis||14 Jan 1975*|
|12.||Molar Mass by Elevation of the Boiling Point||21 Jan 1975|
|13.||Mass Spectronomy||28 Jan 1975|
|14.||Mechanism of Alkene Bromination||4 Feb 1975|
|15.||A Kinetic Study Using Spectophotometry||11 Feb 1975|
|16.||Bomb Calorimetry||18 Feb 1975|
|17.||Applications of an Electrochemical Cell||25 Feb 1975|
|18.||A Study of Esterification||4 Mar 1975|
|19.||Thermometric Titrations||11 Mar 1975|
|20.||Magnetochemistry||18 Mar 1975|
|21.||Electron Microscopy||12 Jan 1978|
|22.||An Investigation of Photosynthesis and Assimulate Transport||19 Jan 1978|
|23.||The Isolation and Metabolism of Mitochondria||26 Jan 1978|
|24.||An Investigation of Active Transport||2 Feb 1978|
|25.||The Isolation and Growth of Bacteria||9 Feb 1978|
|26.||The Nature of the Nerve Impulse||16 Feb 1978|
|27.||The Physiology of Exercise||23 Feb 1978|
|28.||Inheritance in a Fungus||2 Mar 1978|
|29.||The Dogwhelk, a Study on Adaptation||9 Mar 1978|
|30.||The Primary Production of Heather||16 Mar 1978|
|31.||Millikan's Oil-Drop Experiment||24 Feb 1986|
|32.||The Rutherford Scattering of Alpha-Particles||3 Mar 1986|
|33.||Experiments on the Doppler Effect||10 Mar 1986|
|34.||Ionisation and Excitation Potential||17 Mar 1986|
- Empirical Formula by Microanalysis was first shown as a preview for parents and teachers on Friday 27th December 1974 at 10:29am on ITV.
In the Archive
All of the Experiment programmes were produced in colour, future-proofed despite very few UK schools possessing colour television sets when the series started in 1969.
All 34 films are safely archived by Granada Television.
The broadcast dates under which the episodes were filed when the Granada archive listing at itnsource.com was available differed from those in the episode list on this page. The final four episodes of the Biology unit had, broadly speaking, their summer term rather than spring term broadcast dates from 1978. This may reveal that those episodes were postponed from their scheduled slots in the spring term and not shown until summer, but this is by no means certain as Granada's archive contains many dating anomalies for programmes from the 1970s and 80s.
The first episode of the Chemistry unit also had its schools broadcast date in January 1975 recorded and not the date of the previous month's preview broadcast.
|Sound recordist||Alan Bale|
|Dubbing mixer||Frank Griffiths|
|Film editor||John Pipkin|
|Producer||Jack Smith with Prof. Eric Mendoza|
|Experiments presented by||Dr. Philip Riley, Dr. B. J. Brough,|
|Educational adviser||Alan Briggs, Head of Chemistry at Eccles College|
|Dubbing mixer||John Whitworth|
|Film editor||John Pipkin|
|Produced & directed by||Jack Smith|
|Experiments prepared and demonstrated by||Dr. J. G. Duckett (episode 1),
Dr. C. Marshall (2), School of Plant Biology, University College of North Wales, Bangor
|Educational adviser||Michael Dearden|
|Film cameraman||Michael Popley,
Michael Lemmon (episode 9)
|Dubbing mixer||Andrew Wyatt|
|Film editor||Brian Tagg|
|Produced & directed by||Jack Smith|
|Experiments devised and performed by||Dr. Michael Lumb (episodes 1 & 2),|
|Film cameraman||Michael Rainer (episode 1),
Jon Woods (2-4)
|Sound recordist||Harold Lester|
|Dubbing mixer||Andrew Wyatt|
|Production assistant||Linda Bell|
|Graphic designer||Graham Adshead|
|Rostrum cameraman||Martin Kelly|
|Film editor||John Thomas|
|Produced & directed by||Jack Smith|
The Experiment Booklet
Each unit was accompanied by an essential booklet containing instructions and additional data to complete the experiments in the classroom. Teachers could either buy one copy of the booklet for their class, treating them as teachers' notes, or ideally a separate copy for each student, treating them as pupils' pamphlets.
There was a separate booklet for each unit. The Physics booklet was first issued in 1969 costing 2s 3d, then revised and reissued the following year. When the series reappeared four years later, after decimalisation of UK currency, they cost 18p.
The different unit booklets were sold at slightly different prices, by 1982 for example the Physics booklet cost 85p, Chemistry 95p and Biology £1.
A set of 6 electron micrograph photographs to accompany the first Biology programme were also sold.
Film and Video
In 1970 Granada TV made 16mm copies of the original Physics films available for sale, via Granada International Productions Ltd, and for hire from the British Film Institute Distribution Library.
Later, by 1990, all 34 episodes ever made were released on a set of VHS video cassettes by Guild Sound and Vision Ltd of Peterborough. There were two videos each for the three 10-part units plus a final tape for the 1986 Physics unit, making seven tapes in total, and each video was sold for £35.
- Autumn 1969 - Mondays 11:18am, repeated Tuesdays 2:15pm Physics
- Autumn 1970 - Tuesdays 11:40am, repeated Thursdays 2:40pm Physics
- Autumn 1974 - Tuesdays 10:12am, repeated Fridays 11:45am Physics
- Spring 1975 - Tuesdays 10:12am, repeated Fridays 11:45am Chemistry
- Autumn 1975 - Tuesdays 11:18am, repeated Wednesdays 2:15pm Physics
- Spring 1976 - Tuesdays 10:12am, repeated Fridays 11:43am Chemistry
- Spring 1977 - Tuesdays 10:09am, repeated Fridays 11:43am Chemistry
- Autumn 1977 - Thursdays 10:33am Chemistry
- Spring 1978 - Thursdays 10:33am Biology
- Summer 1978 - Thursdays 10:33am & Mondays 9:47am Biology (unscheduled in the annual programme guides and unrecorded in the IBA annual report, occupying a slot which had been planned for use by Politics - What's It All About? and was actually taken by just 4 episodes of its predecessor What Should We Do? in the first half of term and then given over to Experiment repeats in the second half.)
- Autumn 1978 - Fridays 10:23am Chemistry
- Spring 1979 - Fridays 10:23am Biology
- Summer 1979 - Fridays 10:23am Physics
- Autumn 1979 - Tuesdays 9:30am Chemistry (the first 5 episodes were not broadcast due to the ITV strike)
- Spring 1980 - Tuesdays 9:30am Biology
- Summer 1980 - Thursdays 10:48am Physics
- Autumn 1980 - Thursdays 10:53am Chemistry
- Spring 1981 - Tuesdays 10:48am Chemistry, and Thursdays 10:53am Biology
- Summer 1981 - Thursdays 10:53am Physics
- Autumn 1981 - Thursdays 10:48am Chemistry, and Fridays 10:48am Biology (in Granada and some other regions only)
- Spring 1982 - Thursdays 10:48am Biology
- Summer 1982 - Thursdays 10:48am Physics
- Autumn 1982 - Mondays 10:31am Chemistry, Tuesdays 10:45am Biology (in Granada, Channel and TSW regions only, Documentary Re-run was shown in other English regions) and Wednesdays 11:05am Physics (in Granada and many other regions, but not Thames in London who broadcast Finding Out instead)
- Spring 1983 - Mondays 10:31am Biology followed by Mondays 10:48am Physics, and Tuesdays 10:45am Chemistry (in Granada, Channel and TSW regions only, Documentary Rerun was shown in other English regions)
- Autumn 1983 - Thursdays 10:33am Physics, and Fridays 9:30am Biology
- Summer 1984 - Fridays 10:46am Chemistry
- Autumn 1984 - Tuesdays 10:21am, Biology, Wednesdays 10:04am Chemistry, and Fridays 10:48am Physics
- Spring 1986 - Mondays 10:28am Physics, the final broadcasts of most of the 1969 episodes and the premiere of the 4 new 1986 episodes
- Summer 1986 - Tuesdays 10:28am Biology, and Wednesdays 11:40am Chemistry
- Autumn 1986 - Wednesdays 10:16am, 5 Chemistry episodes, the 4 1986 Physics episodes, and the very last broadcast of a 1969 episode
- Summer 1987 - Thursdays 10:45am, Biology
- Autumn 1987 - Fridays 10:24am, Biology and the 1986 Physics episodes
- Summer 1989 - Thursdays 10:43am Chemistry and Physics
- Spring 1990 - Mondays 11:41am Biology and Physics
- Summer 1991 - Mondays 11:41am Chemistry and Physics
- Summer 1992 - Thursdays 10:23am Biology and Physics
Sources and References
- Independent Broadcasting Authority annual reports, 1974-1983
- ITV Schools Annual Programme Guides, 1969-1992
- Jones, Christopher (1974a) 'Educational Broadcasting: IBA' in Visual Education, March 1974, pp.13-14
- Jones, Christopher (1974b) 'Educational Broadcasting' in Visual Education, November 1974, pp.17-18
- Jones, Christopher (1974c) 'Educational Broadcasting: IBA' in Visual Education, December 1974, pp.27-28
- TV Times television listings, 1969-1992, including London-region listings via TV Times Project database
- Weltman, Joseph (1978) 21 Years of Independent Television for Schools, 1957 to 1978 as published with Independent Broadcasting no 16, May 1978, London: IBA
- Jack Smith quote on 'reading it up in a book' from Jones (1974b) p.18, presumably quoting from the notes booklet.
- Weltman (1978) p.20 points out that "At the present time the only genuinely Sixth Form series in the ITV output is Granada's Experiment, a series of films of 'A Level' chemistry and physics experiments using sophisticated facilities and equipment which many schools do not have." He also explains how devoting so much air time to such a small audience was justified, as "with limited air time, there will always be an uneasy dilemma between the claims of a small, highly specialised audience and those of a much more numerous general and less clearly defined one. The decision cannot be made on grounds of audience size alone. Even in a mass medium there is something to be said for success in a deliberately limited but important task. That, after all, is basically the rationale of all educational broadcasting."
- The precise episode of Experiment previewed in December 1974 was not listed in the TV Times, but was confirmed in Jones (1974) p.27.
- The ITV Schools annual programme guides explained the use of the pamphlet, for example in 1974-75 (Ulster edition, p.4) explains "The booklet provides the theoretical background, essential numerical data not given in the programmes and instructions on the calculation of results from the readings obtained. It is essential to have at least one copy of the booklet, though it would be preferable for students to have their own copies."
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