Open Lectures

Summer Term 2008

Summer 2008 Open Lecture. Lectures are free, open to all and no booking is needed.

Brabourne Lecture Theatre, Keynes College, at 6.00 pm [ Maps ]

For further information about Open Lectures please e-mail


Fri 30

Professor Brian Ford, Research scientist, author and broadcaster

The birth of the microscope

Professor Brian Ford is a prolific research scientist, author and broadcaster who has presented programmes for the BBC as well as for other prominent networks in territories such as India, Germany and Japan. He has made many unique contributions to science and is a world authority on the microscope (the subject of many of his bestselling books).

He was recently awarded a NESTA Fellowship in London and was presented with the inaugural Köhler medal in America for his work in microscopy. In 2006, he was nominated for the prestigious Faraday Medal of the Royal Society in London.

Professor Ford’s work is widely reported and discussed in journals such as Scientific American and the British Medical Journal. There are now over 100 editions of his books in print, including a microscope manual given to British schools as part of Science Year.


Wed 4

Renaissance Lecture

Professor Gary Taylor, Lecturer, writer and editor

Our other Shakespeare: Thomas Middleton and what it means to be British

Gary Taylor studied at the universities of Kansas and Cambridge, where he obtained his doctorate in English. He has taught at Oxford University, the Catholic University of America, Brandeis University (where he was Chair of the English department), the University of Alabama and Florida State University, where he became Founder and first Director of the interdisciplinary History of Text Technologies programme.

He is also General Editor of the Oxford editions of Shakespeare's Complete Works (1986, 2005), Thomas Middleton's Collected Works (2007) and the Palgrave series Signs of Race (2005 - ). His other publications include a history of Shakespeare's reputation (Reinventing Shakespeare, 1989), a theory of artistic reputations generally (Cultural Selection, 1996), and ‘an abbreviated history of Western manhood’ (Castration, 2000).

His Moment by Moment by Shakespeare (MacMillan, 1985) was the winner of a Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Book.

Fri 6

SDFVA Annual Lecture

Nick Starr, Executive Director National Theatre

Nick Starr began work in the theatre as a volunteer for the Half Moon Theatre in the East End. After jobs in publicity with Cambridge Theatre Company, the Half Moon and in the West End, he joined the National Theatre press office in 1987. He became its Head of Planning in 1991.

In 1996 he became Director of Warwick Arts Centre, and the following year joined the Almeida as Executive Director, working alongside Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid to broaden the company's scope with touring, seasons in the West End, the Malvern Festival and the conversion of Gainsborough Studios for 'Shakespeare in Shoreditch'. He left in February 2001 after securing the company its temporary theatres in King Cross while the home theatre in Islington was refurbished.

Before joining the National, he ran a production company that commissioned and developed projects (Power, and Jerry Springer – The Opera) and produced The Lieutenant of Inishmore in the West End.

Nick Starr is on the board of the Society of London Theatre. He is the Chair of Battersea Arts Centre.

Wed 11

Professor Roy Ellen, Professor of Anthropology and Human Ecology, University of Kent

The strange case of the Kentish eolithic and its place in the history of science

An ‘eolith’ is chipped flint which has the appearance of having been worked by humans. When they were first discovered in the late nineteenth century eoliths were thought to be examples of early tools, and were used as evidence for the existence of humans in Europe more than 1.8m years ago. Today eoliths are generally thought to be naturally occurring debris, but collections still exist in many local and national museums.

The lecture will introduce this episode in the history of science, particularly the connections with Kent and the work of Benjamin Harrrison of Ightham. It will examine why eoliths were so readily accepted, and how doubts about their authenticity grew. It will show how the work of local amateurs connected with the national scientific elite of the period. The data and narratives surrounding the eolithic controversy provide an excellent example of how we can use approaches from cultural cognition.

Thus, the invention of eoliths arose because it satisfied a requirement of a particular way of thinking. Once arguments in favour of a theory had been accepted, the default ‘mindset’ became one of disproving evidence that eoliths were not human fabrications. In retrospect, the debate was important because it was conducted at a time when the ground rules of geological and archaeological research were being established. The episode determined the limit of what was scientifically credible.