Portrait of Kettering space-pioneer presented to the Science Museum in London

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On the 15th December 2023 at a ceremony in London, a portrait of Geoffrey Perry MBE was presented to the Science Museum for inclusion in the Science Museum Group Collection to provide a record of the work of the Kettering Grammar School satellite tracking group.

In the 1960s the Kettering Grammar School satellite tracking group founded by Geoff Perry, Head of Physics, and Derek Slater, Head of Chemistry, came to national and international prominence when, during the cold-war era, they were able to announce to the world the location of a Soviet satellite base previously unknown to NASA.

In 2022 the artist Ieuan Layton-Matthews, who had been a member of staff at the school with Geoff Perry, gave to the Kettering Grammar School Old Boys Association (the Old Cytringanians) a portrait he had painted of his old colleague.

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Keen to find an appropriate home for this painting of someone of such local importance, the Old Cytringanians offered the work to the National Space Centre at Leicester. Recognising its significance, the Centre expressed great interest, and after considering the best home for the portrait put the Old Cytringanians in contact with the Science Museum in London.

Stuart Welch and Martin Althorpe present the Geoff Perry portrait to the Science Museum GroupStuart Welch and Martin Althorpe present the Geoff Perry portrait to the Science Museum Group
Stuart Welch and Martin Althorpe present the Geoff Perry portrait to the Science Museum Group

The Science Museum Group cares for many records, including diaries and working-papers, that Geoff Perry preserved from the school's satellite tracking era. Stuart Welch, of the Old Cytringanians said:

"It was clear from our first contact with them that the Science Museum Group were very interested to add the portrait to their collection”.

After careful research into the provenance, significance and quality of the work, the Science Museum Group confirmed that they would like to provide the painting a permanent home.

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On the 15th December, Stuart, together with Martin Althorpe, from the Old Cytringanians attended the Museum where the portrait was officially handed over.

Present from the Science Museum were, Nick Wyatt, Keeper of Library and Archives, Doug Millard, Deputy Keeper of Technologies and Engineering, Anna Ferrari, Curator of Art and Visual Culture, and Sophie Hazlewood and Catherine Neal, Assistant Registrars at the Science Museum.

Also present from the United States of America was Natascha Finnerty of the Smithsonian Institution. "The Science Museum couldn't have made us more welcome", said Martin.

"They were so interested to hear our recollections of being taught by Geoff and Ieuan, the artist".

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Stuart said, "We left reminded of the pride that we felt in our school that through the satellite tracking team had come to national and international fame back in those space-race years".

"We are so grateful to Ieuan for donating the portrait, and so pleased that it has found its place in the national Geoff Perry collection", said Martin.