Autumn 2008 Lunchtime Lecture Series All lunchtime lectures are free, and open to the public. However space is limited, so please reserve a place by registering online or phoning the Library on 020 7451 2606. Each event will last an hour, and will take place in the Library reading rooms at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG.
Friday 3 October, 1pm Astronomers Royal through the Ages In 1675, King Charles II caused the Royal Greenwich Observatory to be founded for the purpose of determining longitude at sea by ‘the astronomical method’. This talk will look at the work of some of the interesting Astronomers Royal, who for centuries ran the observatory. Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS
Friday 10 October, 1pm Sparkling Cider and the Evolution of Methode Champenoise James Crowden will talk about cider-making in the mid 17th century and the experiments which led to the evolution of the bottle-fermented sparkling process, otherwise known as the methode champenoise. Papers read to the Royal Society in 1662-63 show that the research work paid dividends many years before certain French champagne houses claim that Dom Perignon ‘invented’ the process. James Crowden, author of Ciderland
Friday 17 October, 1pm Sir Isaac Newton, Science, and Unorthodox Theology Sir Isaac Newton spent much of his life investigating subjects we would not now think of as scientific, including alchemy and his own private theology. This talk will explore the links between the different areas of Newton’s research. Rob Iliffe, University of Sussex
Friday 24 October, 1pm Sir Hans Sloane and his Library Sir Hans Sloane started collecting books when he was about 20 years old, and continued until his death at the age of 92. His collections formed the basis of the British Museum and included some 40,000 printed volumes. By looking at what he acquired and how it was used we can learn about the man himself, his career and the intellectual and scientific circles in which he lived. Alison Walker, The British Library
Friday 31 October, 1pm The Lisbon Catastrophe The Lisbon earthquake, which took place on the morning of 1 November 1755, was Europe’s greatest natural disaster. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami and fire, destroying much of Lisbon. This talk will reconstruct the events of the day with the assistance of Royal Society archive material. Edward Paice, author of Wrath of God: The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755
Friday 7 November, 1pm Taming Nature: John Lubbock and Nineteenth-Century Entomology This talk examines the career of Charles Darwin’s neighbour, John Lubbock FRS, first Baron Avebury (1834-1914) banker, MP, anthropologist, and entomologist. He made significant contributions to the study of insects, and his achievements are said to have included taming a wasp, and teaching a dog to read. John Clark, University of St Andrews
Friday 14 November, 1pm “Spider Man”: The Virtuosity of Dr Martin Lister, an Early Royal Society Luminary Dr Martin Lister (1638-1712), vice-president of the Royal Society and court physician, is best known as England’s first arachnologist and conchologist. This talk will also address some of his lesser-known discoveries, including his invention of the histogram and the stratigraphic map. Anna Marie Roos, Wellcome Unit, Oxford University
Friday 21 November, 1pm The Singular Life of Edward Heron-Allen FRS Having trained as a solicitor, Edward Heron-Allen (1861-1943) went on to write a definitive work on violin-making, lecture in America on palmistry, and publish science fiction and translations of Persian poetry. His work on the foraminifera (microscopic marine organisms) of the Sussex coast led to his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society. Tim McCann, The Heron-Allen Society
Friday 28 November, 1pm Palmer’s Penguins and the Warming of Antarctica What can the daily lives of penguins tell us about Earth’s changing climate? Science writer Meredith Hooper will talk about her work with American seabird ecologists as they investigated the links between declining numbers of Adelie penguins and the visible warming occuring along the Antarctic Peninsula. Meredith Hooper, author of The Ferocious Summer
Friday 5 December, 1pm Water: The Long Road from Aristotelian Element to H2O Until as late as the 1780s water was still generally considered one of Aristotle’s four elements. A whole century of exciting and challenging scientific debates were required before ‘water is H2O’ became scientific common sense. The surprising history of this most familiar of substances illustrates the hidden challenges in establishing even the simplest of scientific facts. Hasok Chang, University College London
Evening Lecture and Book Launch Tuesday 7 October, 6pm Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder (2008) Richard Holmes, the well-known romantic biographer, charts the birth of modern science in the late 18th and early 19th centuries through the lives of three pairs of scientists in his latest book. ‘The Age of Wonder’ has been inspired by the scientific ferment that swept through Britain at the end of the eighteenth century, and which Holmes now radically redefines as ‘the revolution of Romantic Science’.
The book opens with young Joseph Banks, botanist on Captain Cook’s first Endeavour voyage, stepping down onto a Tahitian beach in 1769, hoping to discover Paradise. Many other voyages of discovery swiftly follow, while Banks, now President of the Royal Society in London, becomes our narrative guide to what truly emerges as an Age of Wonder.
The evening lecture is free, but registration is required. To reserve a place, please click here.
Conference Friday 12 December, 9am to 5pm Doctor of Enlightenment In conjunction with the Centre for Life Writing Research at King’s College London, the Royal Society presents a one-day conference on the life and work of Dr Thomas Beddoes (1760-1808).
Beddoes was one of the most remarkable figures in the history of British medicine. Part of a group of radical physicians friendly with Erasmus Darwin and the Lunar Circle in the early 1790s, he set up the Pneumatic Institution near Bristol where he attempted cures using newly-discovered combinations of gases. The then-unknown Humphry Davy superintended trials, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge was among his patients. This conference marks the bicentenary of Beddoes’s death. Speakers include Jane Darcy, Mike Jay, Trevor Levere, Iwan Morus, Giuliano Pancaldi, George Rousseau, Larry Stewart and Neil Vickers.
The conference is open to all, but a registration fee will be charged. Further information and registration forms will be available here soon.