Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ursula Blau

I'm updating this entry because I had a very pleasant surprise phone call today... from someonewho introduced themself as Liz Frisch... none other than Ursula Blau. Now in her eighties, I'd written to her only a couple of days ago; we spoke for only a few minutes during which time I explained why I was trying to contact her and explained that, under her maiden name, she had been credited with contributions to Swift Annual 3-8 (1956-61) and Robin Annual 4-8 (1956-60). This came as something of a surprise as she had no memory of contributing, although she admitted that her memory was no longer so good.

Ursula (Ulla E.) Blau was born in Vienna, the daughter of Dr Karl Blau, a civil servant, and his wife Helga, and studied at the Central School of Arts & Crafts, London. She was married to Otto Robert Frisch, OBE (1904-1979) on 14 March 1951. The couple had two children, Monica Eleanor and David Anthony.

Otto Frisch was a physicist, born in Austria, who studied in Vienna and worked in Germany and England before the Second World War. His aunt was also a noted physicist Lise Meitner and the two were to account for some of the discoveries of Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann who had discovered that uranium bombarded by neutrons produced a lighter element, barium. Frisch coined the term 'fission' for the process.

In 1939, he was offered a position at the University of Birmingham, then transferred to Liverpool Institute in 1940. Here he worked with Joseph Chadwick who moved to the USA in 1943. Frisch followed and was part of the team at Los Alamos, New Mexico, who conducted research into the atomic bomb under Robert Oppenheimer.

Returning to England in 1945 he held a post at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell before taking up the Jack son Chair of Physics at Trinity College, Cambridge. He remained at Cambridge until retiring in 1972.

Liz Frisch, widowed now for over twenty-five years, still lives in Cambridge and, despite her age, is still as active as she can be. She has been closely associated with some of the schools in the local area. To Trinity College she donated many family papers relating to her husband and his work; she recalled with some delight that her husband had also been something of an artists, drawing illustrations for some of the books he worked on over the years. One idea they had was to produce a book about physics for children which Liz would illustrate. Liz contacted a local school and asked if she could attend some classes and sketch some of the children as they worked. This led to a strong connection between the Frisch family and the school; with students visiting theire home and Otto Frisch giving talks at the school.

Liz also recalls working on a children's educational publication, Child Education, and suspects that her contributions to Swift and Robin annuals were produced through the Boland art agency. She was primarily a book illustrator although she has produced paintings over the years. In fact, some of her work was exhibited as recently as October 2006 at an exhibition of paintings by the Cambridge Drawing Society.
Children's Books (as Ursula Blau)
Fun to Make from Odds and Ends. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1963.

Children's Books (as Ulla Frisch)
Pictures to Play With. London, Faber & Faber, 1977; New York, Taplinger Pub. Co., 1994.
Get Busy, Get Better. London, Faber & Faber, 1979.

Illustrations (as Ursula Blau)
Ten Tales for the Very Young by Marjorie Poppleton. London, University of London Press, 1953.
Josephine Jane by Joyce Reason. London, Lutterworth Press, 1970.
Rettende Flugel by Ernst Wetter; adapted and edited by K. J. H. Creese. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1972.

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