Questioning, Asking and Enduring Curiosity: an Oral History Conversation between Julianne Nyhan and Willard McCarty


This interview was carried out with Willard McCarty on Tuesday 27th March, 2012 in University College London. He recounts that his earliest encounter with computing was in the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Berkley where he worked with semi-automated scanning equipment for the Alvarez high-energy physics projects. After his dreams of becoming a physicist were thwarted he transferred to Reed College. There he did not have the opportunity to take formal training in computing; for the most part, Computer Science departments did not exist then. So, he learned to programme “on the job” with help from a talented physicist turned computer programmer named Bill Gates (no association with Microsoft). His first encounter with what we now call digital humanities was at the University of Toronto where he worked on the Records of Early English Drama project whilst undertaking a PhD on 17th century non-dramatic poetry. In 1984/5, as he was finishing his PhD, he accepted an academic support role at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at Toronto, where he remained until 1996 when he accepted an academic post in King’s College London. In Toronto he was keenly aware of the staff-faculty divide and the marginalised position of those who used computers in Humanities research. Nevertheless, the opportunities that the role brought to meet with a range of scholars interested in computing had a lasting influence on him. So too, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada he was able to undertake a research project on Ovid’s Metamorphosis. He closes the interview by reflecting on his early involvement with the conference scene and people who have influenced him, from academics to his calligraphy teacher Lloyd Reynolds.

Photo: Bern (2014, January 29). Retrieved 16 June 2018, from http://www.mccarty.org.uk/


Willard McCarty

Willard McCarty is Professor of Humanities Computing in the Department of Digital Humanities at King's College London, England, where he is director of the doctoral programme in the department.

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