Carolyn Ann Converse, class of 1964


This interview was donated by Carolyn Converse, class of 1964. Converse asked her Strathclyde University colleague, Kathleen Kane, to interview her for this project.

Converse begins by sharing some personal background including information on her hometown of Wilton, Connecticut, her family’s educational history, and her father’s early death. She goes on to explain that she chose to attend Pembroke College for its proximity to her home and its connection to Brown University. She briefly remembers the presidential election and assassination of John F. Kennedy, sit-ins demanding desegregation, and the looming impact of the atomic bomb.

Converse recalls professors McLoughlin and Edwin Honig throughout the interview. She also touches upon her educational career after Pembroke, getting her PhD at Harvard University and Yale University, and doing postdoctoral work at Oxford University. While a student at Pembroke, Converse recalls the biology program as academically very challenging and made more difficult by the fact that she had to work on campus in order to pay for her room and board. She recurrently mentions the social difficulties of having financial struggles and the kindnesses done by fellow students and assistant dean Gretchen Tonks.

Additionally, Converse discusses her participation in the Student Peace Union, Sock and Buskin, and Quaker meetings. She also remembers several parietal rules and compulsory physical education. To that end, Converse also comments on “posture pictures” – controversial images that Brown University captured of first-year women students. She concludes her interview by generally considering her experience in a liberal arts school.


Recorded on February 21, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland
Interviewed by Kathy Kane

Suggested Chicago style citation: Converse, Carolyn Ann. Interview. By Kathy Kane. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. February 21, 2018.


Carolyn Converse grew up in Wilton, Connecticut, with two sisters and one brother. Her father died when she was fourteen years old, which left her and her family with financial struggles for much of her younger life. After graduating high school, Converse went on to attend Pembroke College on a partial scholarship and she graduated in 1964 with an S.B. in Biology. She went on to obtain her PhD and pursue postdoctoral work at Oxford University where she met her husband and fellow scientist Alan Cooper. After working in the United States, Converse and Cooper moved to Glasgow, Scotland, where she became a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and studied the retina until her retirement. Converse and Cooper continue to reside in Glasgow and take interest in maintaining the Converse Ancestry blog (