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In Our Time: Science

BBC

Description

Scientific principles, theory, and the role of key figures in the advancement of science.
88 Episodes Play All Episodes
George+and+Robert+Stephenson+%28repeat%29
access_time2 months ago
In a programme first broadcast on 12 April 2018, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the contribution of George Stephenson (1781-1848) and his son Robert (1803-59) to the development of the railways in the 19th Century. George became known as The Father of Railways and yet arguably Robert's contribution was even greater, with his engineering work going far beyond their collaboration.

Robert is credited with the main role in the design of their locomotives. George had worked on stationary colliery steam engines and, with Robert, developed the moving steam engine Locomotion No1 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. They produced the Rocket for the Rainhill Trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829. From there, the success of their designs and engineering led to the expansion of railways across Britain and around the world.

with

Dr Michael Bailey
Railway historian and editor of the most recent biography of Robert Stephenson

Julia Elton
Past President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology

and

Colin Divall
Professor Emeritus of Railway Studies at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson

This programme is a repeat.
Paul+Dirac
access_time3 months ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the theoretical physicist Dirac (1902-1984), whose achievements far exceed his general fame. To his peers, he was ranked with Einstein and, when he moved to America in his retirement, he was welcomed as if he were Shakespeare. Born in Bristol, he trained as an engineer before developing theories in his twenties that changed the understanding of quantum mechanics, bringing him a Nobel Prize in 1933 which he shared with Erwin Schrödinger. He continued to make deep contributions, bringing abstract maths to physics, beyond predicting anti-particles as he did in his Dirac Equation.

With

Graham Farmelo
Biographer of Dirac and Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge

Valerie Gibson
Professor of High Energy Physics at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College

And

David Berman
Professor of Theoretical Physics at Queen Mary University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson
The+Evolution+of+Horses
access_time3 months ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins of horses, from their dog sized ancestors to their proliferation in the New World until hunted to extinction, their domestication in Asia and their development since. The genetics of the modern horse are the most studied of any animal, after humans, yet it is still uncertain why they only have one toe on each foot when their wider family had more, or whether speed or stamina has been more important in their evolution. What is clear, though, is that when humans first chose to ride horses, as well as eat them, the future of both species changed immeasurably.

With

Alan Outram
Professor of Archaeological Science at the University of Exeter

Christine Janis
Honorary Professor in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol and Professor Emerita in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University

And

John Hutchinson
Professor in Evolutionary Biomechanics at the Royal Veterinary College

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Solar+Wind
access_time4 months ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flow of particles from the outer region of the Sun which we observe in the Northern and Southern Lights, interacting with Earth's magnetosphere, and in comet tails that stream away from the Sun regardless of their own direction. One way of defining the boundary of the solar system is where the pressure from the solar wind is balanced by that from the region between the stars, the interstellar medium. Its existence was suggested from the C19th and Eugene Parker developed the theory of it in the 1950s and it has been examined and tested by a series of probes in C20th up to today, with more planned.

With

Andrew Coates
Professor of Physics and Deputy Director in charge of the Solar System at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London

Helen Mason OBE
Reader in Solar Physics at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Fellow at St Edmund's College

And

Tim Horbury
Professor of Physics at Imperial College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Hybrids
access_time7 months ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what happens when parents from different species have offspring, despite their genetic differences. In some cases, such as the zebra/donkey hybrid in the image above, the offspring are usually infertile but in others the genetic change can lead to new species with evolutionary advantages. Hybrids can occur naturally, yet most arise from human manipulation and Darwin's study of plant and animal domestication informed his ideas on natural selection.

With

Sandra Knapp
Tropical Botanist at the Natural History Museum

Nicola Nadeau
Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield

And

Steve Jones
Senior Research Fellow in Genetics at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Dorothy+Hodgkin
access_time8 months ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the work and ideas of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994), awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964 for revealing the structures of vitamin B12 and penicillin and who later determined the structure of insulin. She was one of the pioneers of X-ray crystallography and described by a colleague as 'a crystallographers' crystallographer'. She remains the only British woman to have won a Nobel in science, yet rejected the idea that she was a role model for other women, or that her career was held back because she was a woman. She was also the first woman since Florence Nightingale to receive the Order of Merit, and was given the Lenin Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to bring together scientists from the East and West in pursuit of nuclear disarmament.

With

Georgina Ferry
Science writer and biographer of Dorothy Hodgkin

Judith Howard
Professor of Chemistry at Durham University

and

Patricia Fara
Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Kinetic+Theory
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how scientists sought to understand the properties of gases and the relationship between pressure and volume, and what that search unlocked. Newton theorised that there were static particles in gases that pushed against each other all the harder when volume decreased, hence the increase in pressure. Those who argued that molecules moved, and hit each other, were discredited until James Maxwell and Ludwig Boltzmann used statistics to support this kinetic theory. Ideas about atoms developed in tandem with this, and it came as a surprise to scientists in C20th that the molecules underpinning the theory actually existed and were not simply thought experiments.

The image above is of Ludwig Boltzmann from a lithograph by Rudolf Fenzl, 1898

With

Steven Bramwell
Professor of Physics at University College London

Isobel Falconer
Reader in History of Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

and

Ted Forgan
Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Introducing+The+Curious+Cases+of+Rutherford+and+Fry
access_time1 year ago
Science sleuths Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry reveal fascinating discoveries from their investigations into everyday mysteries.
The+Evolution+of+Teeth
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss theories about the origins of teeth in vertebrates, and what we can learn from sharks in particular and their ancestors. Great white sharks can produce up to 100,000 teeth in their lifetimes. For humans, it is closer to a mere 50 and most of those have to last from childhood. Looking back half a billion years, though, the ancestors of sharks and humans had no teeth in their mouths at all, nor jaws. They were armoured fish, sucking in their food. The theory is that either their tooth-like scales began to appear in mouths as teeth, or some of their taste buds became harder. If we knew more about that, and why sharks can regenerate their teeth, then we might learn how humans could grow new teeth in later lives.

With

Gareth Fraser
Assistant Professor in Biology at the University of Florida

Zerina Johanson
Merit Researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum

and

Philip Donoghue
Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Pheromones
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how members of the same species send each other invisible chemical signals to influence the way they behave. Pheromones are used by species across the animal kingdom in a variety of ways, such as laying trails to be followed, to raise the alarm, to scatter from predators, to signal dominance and to enhance attractiveness and, in honey bees, even direct development into queen or worker.

The image above is of male and female ladybirds that have clustered together in response to pheromones.

With

Tristram Wyatt
Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford

Jane Hurst
William Prescott Professor of Animal Science at the University of Liverpool

and

Francis Ratnieks
Professor of Apiculture and Head of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Pheromones
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how members of the same species send each other invisible chemical signals to influence the way they behave. Pheromones are used by species across the animal kingdom in a variety of ways, such as laying trails to be followed, to raise the alarm, to scatter from predators, to signal dominance and to enhance attractiveness and, in honey bees, even direct development into queen or worker.

The image above is of male and female ladybirds that have clustered together in response to pheromones.

With

Tristram Wyatt
Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford

Jane Hurst
William Prescott Professor of Animal Science at the University of Liverpool

and

Francis Ratnieks
Professor of Apiculture and Head of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Aristotle%27s+Biology
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable achievement of Aristotle (384-322BC) in the realm of biological investigation, for which he has been called the originator of the scientific study of life. Known mainly as a philosopher and the tutor for Alexander the Great, who reportedly sent him animal specimens from his conquests, Aristotle examined a wide range of life forms while by the Sea of Marmara and then on the island of Lesbos. Some ideas, such as the the spontaneous generation of flies, did not survive later scrutiny, yet his influence was extraordinary and his work was unequalled until the early modern period.

The image above is of the egg and embryo of a dogfish, one of the animals Aristotle described accurately as he recorded their development.

With

Armand Leroi
Professor of Evolutionary Development Biology at Imperial College London

Myrto Hatzimichali
Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge

And

Sophia Connell
Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Aristotle%27s+Biology
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable achievement of Aristotle (384-322BC) in the realm of biological investigation, for which he has been called the originator of the scientific study of life. Known mainly as a philosopher and the tutor for Alexander the Great, who reportedly sent him animal specimens from his conquests, Aristotle examined a wide range of life forms while by the Sea of Marmara and then on the island of Lesbos. Some ideas, such as the the spontaneous generation of flies, did not survive later scrutiny, yet his influence was extraordinary and his work was unequalled until the early modern period.

The image above is of the egg and embryo of a dogfish, one of the animals Aristotle described accurately as he recorded their development.

With

Armand Leroi
Professor of Evolutionary Development Biology at Imperial College London

Myrto Hatzimichali
Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge

And

Sophia Connell
Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Emmy+Noether
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas and life of one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, Emmy Noether. Noether’s Theorem is regarded as one of the most important mathematical theorems, influencing the evolution of modern physics. Born in 1882 in Bavaria, Noether studied mathematics at a time when women were generally denied the chance to pursue academic careers and, to get round objections, she spent four years lecturing under a male colleague’s name. In the 1930s she faced further objections to her teaching, as she was Jewish, and she left for the USA when the Nazis came to power. Her innovative ideas were to become widely recognised and she is now considered to be one of the founders of modern algebra.

With

Colva Roney Dougal
Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

David Berman
Professor in Theoretical Physics at Queen Mary, University of London

Elizabeth Mansfield
Professor of Mathematics at the University of Kent

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Emmy+Noether
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas and life of one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, Emmy Noether. Noether’s Theorem is regarded as one of the most important mathematical theorems, influencing the evolution of modern physics. Born in 1882 in Bavaria, Noether studied mathematics at a time when women were generally denied the chance to pursue academic careers and, to get round objections, she spent four years lecturing under a male colleague’s name. In the 1930s she faced further objections to her teaching, as she was Jewish, and she left for the USA when the Nazis came to power. Her innovative ideas were to become widely recognised and she is now considered to be one of the founders of modern algebra.

With

Colva Roney Dougal
Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

David Berman
Professor in Theoretical Physics at Queen Mary, University of London

Elizabeth Mansfield
Professor of Mathematics at the University of Kent

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Venus
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Venus which is both the morning star and the evening star, rotates backwards at walking speed and has a day which is longer than its year. It has long been called Earth’s twin, yet the differences are more striking than the similarities. Once imagined covered with steaming jungles and oceans, we now know the surface of Venus is 450 degrees celsius, and the pressure there is 90 times greater than on Earth, enough to crush an astronaut. The more we learn of it, though, the more we learn of our own planet, such as whether Earth could become more like Venus in some ways, over time.

With

Carolin Crawford
Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Colin Wilson
Senior Research Fellow in Planetary Science at the University of Oxford

And

Andrew Coates
Professor of Physics at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London

Produced by: Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
Venus
access_time1 year ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Venus which is both the morning star and the evening star, rotates backwards at walking speed and has a day which is longer than its year. It has long been called Earth’s twin, yet the differences are more striking than the similarities. Once imagined covered with steaming jungles and oceans, we now know the surface of Venus is 450 degrees celsius, and the pressure there is 90 times greater than on Earth, enough to crush an astronaut. The more we learn of it, though, the more we learn of our own planet, such as whether Earth could become more like Venus in some ways, over time.

With

Carolin Crawford
Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Colin Wilson
Senior Research Fellow in Planetary Science at the University of Oxford

And

Andrew Coates
Professor of Physics at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London

Produced by: Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
Free+Radicals
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the properties of atoms or molecules with a single unpaired electron, which tend to be more reactive, keen to seize an electron to make it a pair. In the atmosphere, they are linked to reactions such as rusting. Free radicals came to prominence in the 1950s with the discovery that radiation poisoning operates through free radicals, as it splits water molecules and produces a very reactive hydroxyl radical which damages DNA and other molecules in the cell. There is also an argument that free radicals are a byproduct of normal respiration and over time they cause an accumulation of damage that is effectively the process of ageing. For all their negative associations, free radicals play an important role in signalling and are also linked with driving cell division, both cancer and normal cell division, even if they tend to become damaging when there are too many of them.

With

Nick Lane
Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London

Anna Croft
Associate Professor at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nottingham

And

Mike Murphy
Professor of Mitochondrial Redox Biology at Cambridge University

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Free+Radicals
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the properties of atoms or molecules with a single unpaired electron, which tend to be more reactive, keen to seize an electron to make it a pair. In the atmosphere, they are linked to reactions such as rusting. Free radicals came to prominence in the 1950s with the discovery that radiation poisoning operates through free radicals, as it splits water molecules and produces a very reactive hydroxyl radical which damages DNA and other molecules in the cell. There is also an argument that free radicals are a byproduct of normal respiration and over time they cause an accumulation of damage that is effectively the process of ageing. For all their negative associations, free radicals play an important role in signalling and are also linked with driving cell division, both cancer and normal cell division, even if they tend to become damaging when there are too many of them.

With

Nick Lane
Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London

Anna Croft
Associate Professor at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nottingham

And

Mike Murphy
Professor of Mitochondrial Redox Biology at Cambridge University

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Automata
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of real and imagined machines that appear to be living, and the questions they raise about life and creation. Even in myth they are made by humans, not born. The classical Greeks built some and designed others, but the knowledge of how to make automata and the principles behind them was lost in the Latin Christian West, remaining in the Greek-speaking and Arabic-speaking world. Western travellers to those regions struggled to explain what they saw, attributing magical powers. The advance of clockwork raised further questions about what was distinctly human, prompting Hobbes to argue that humans were sophisticated machines, an argument explored in the Enlightenment and beyond.

The image above is Jacques de Vaucanson's mechanical duck (1739), which picked up grain, digested and expelled it. If it looks like a duck

with

Simon Schaffer
Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University

Elly Truitt
Associate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr College

And

Franziska Kohlt
Doctoral Researcher in English Literature and the History of Science at the University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Automata
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of real and imagined machines that appear to be living, and the questions they raise about life and creation. Even in myth they are made by humans, not born. The classical Greeks built some and designed others, but the knowledge of how to make automata and the principles behind them was lost in the Latin Christian West, remaining in the Greek-speaking and Arabic-speaking world. Western travellers to those regions struggled to explain what they saw, attributing magical powers. The advance of clockwork raised further questions about what was distinctly human, prompting Hobbes to argue that humans were sophisticated machines, an argument explored in the Enlightenment and beyond.

The image above is Jacques de Vaucanson's mechanical duck (1739), which picked up grain, digested and expelled it. If it looks like a duck

with

Simon Schaffer
Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University

Elly Truitt
Associate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr College

And

Franziska Kohlt
Doctoral Researcher in English Literature and the History of Science at the University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Echolocation
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how some bats, dolphins and other animals emit sounds at high frequencies to explore their environments, rather than sight. This was such an unlikely possibility, to natural historians from C18th onwards, that discoveries were met with disbelief even into the C20th; it was assumed that bats found their way in the dark by touch. Not all bats use echolocation, but those that do have a range of frequencies for different purposes and techniques for preventing themselves becoming deafened by their own sounds. Some prey have evolved ways of detecting when bats are emitting high frequencies in their direction, and some fish have adapted to detect the sounds dolphins use to find them.

With

Kate Jones
Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College London

Gareth Jones
Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol

And

Dean Waters
Lecturer in the Environment Department at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Echolocation
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how some bats, dolphins and other animals emit sounds at high frequencies to explore their environments, rather than sight. This was such an unlikely possibility, to natural historians from C18th onwards, that discoveries were met with disbelief even into the C20th; it was assumed that bats found their way in the dark by touch. Not all bats use echolocation, but those that do have a range of frequencies for different purposes and techniques for preventing themselves becoming deafened by their own sounds. Some prey have evolved ways of detecting when bats are emitting high frequencies in their direction, and some fish have adapted to detect the sounds dolphins use to find them.

With

Kate Jones
Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College London

Gareth Jones
Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol

And

Dean Waters
Lecturer in the Environment Department at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The+Proton
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery and growing understanding of the Proton, formed from three quarks close to the Big Bang and found in the nuclei of all elements. The positive charges they emit means they attract the fundamental particles of negatively charged electrons, an attraction that leads to the creation of atoms which in turn leads to chemistry, biology and life itself. The Sun (in common with other stars) is a fusion engine that turn protons by a series of processes into helium, emitting energy in the process, with about half of the Sun's protons captured so far. Hydrogen atoms, stripped of electrons, are single protons which can be accelerated to smash other nuclei and have applications in proton therapy. Many questions remain, such as why are electrical charges for protons and electrons so perfectly balanced?

With

Frank Close
Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oxford

Helen Heath
Reader in Physics at the University of Bristol

And

Simon Jolly
Lecturer in High Energy Physics at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The+Proton
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery and growing understanding of the Proton, formed from three quarks close to the Big Bang and found in the nuclei of all elements. The positive charges they emit means they attract the fundamental particles of negatively charged electrons, an attraction that leads to the creation of atoms which in turn leads to chemistry, biology and life itself. The Sun (in common with other stars) is a fusion engine that turn protons by a series of processes into helium, emitting energy in the process, with about half of the Sun's protons captured so far. Hydrogen atoms, stripped of electrons, are single protons which can be accelerated to smash other nuclei and have applications in proton therapy. Many questions remain, such as why are electrical charges for protons and electrons so perfectly balanced?

With

Frank Close
Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oxford

Helen Heath
Reader in Physics at the University of Bristol

And

Simon Jolly
Lecturer in High Energy Physics at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
George+and+Robert+Stephenson
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the contribution of George Stephenson (1781-1848) and his son Robert (1803-59) to the development of the railways in C19th. George became known as The Father of Railways and yet arguably Robert's contribution was even greater, with his engineering work going far beyond their collaboration.

Robert is credited with the main role in the design of their locomotives. George had worked on stationary colliery steam engines and, with Robert, developed the moving steam engine Locomotion No1 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. They produced the Rocket for the Rainhill Trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829. From there, the success of their designs and engineering led to the expansion of railways across Britain and around the world.

with

Dr Michael Bailey
Railway historian and editor of the most recent biography of Robert Stephenson

Julia Elton
Past President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology

and

Colin Divall
Professor Emeritus of Railway Studies at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
George+and+Robert+Stephenson
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the contribution of George Stephenson (1781-1848) and his son Robert (1803-59) to the development of the railways in C19th. George became known as The Father of Railways and yet arguably Robert's contribution was even greater, with his engineering work going far beyond their collaboration.

Robert is credited with the main role in the design of their locomotives. George had worked on stationary colliery steam engines and, with Robert, developed the moving steam engine Locomotion No1 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. They produced the Rocket for the Rainhill Trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829. From there, the success of their designs and engineering led to the expansion of railways across Britain and around the world.

with

Dr Michael Bailey
Railway historian and editor of the most recent biography of Robert Stephenson

Julia Elton
Past President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology

and

Colin Divall
Professor Emeritus of Railway Studies at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Rosalind+Franklin
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering scientist Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958). During her distinguished career, Franklin carried out ground-breaking research into coal and viruses but she is perhaps best remembered for her investigations in the field of DNA. In 1952 her research generated a famous image that became known as Photograph 51. When the Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James Watson saw this image, it enabled them the following year to work out that DNA has a double-helix structure, one of the most important discoveries of modern science. Watson, Crick and Franklin's colleague Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize in 1962 for this achievement but Franklin did not and today many people believe that Franklin has not received enough recognition for her work.


With:

Patricia Fara
President of the British Society for the History of Science

Jim Naismith
Interim lead of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, Director of the Research Complex at Harwell and Professor at the University of Oxford

Judith Howard
Professor of Chemistry at Durham University

Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Rosalind+Franklin
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering scientist Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958). During her distinguished career, Franklin carried out ground-breaking research into coal and viruses but she is perhaps best remembered for her investigations in the field of DNA. In 1952 her research generated a famous image that became known as Photograph 51. When the Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James Watson saw this image, it enabled them the following year to work out that DNA has a double-helix structure, one of the most important discoveries of modern science. Watson, Crick and Franklin's colleague Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize in 1962 for this achievement but Franklin did not and today many people believe that Franklin has not received enough recognition for her work.


With:

Patricia Fara
President of the British Society for the History of Science

Jim Naismith
Interim lead of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, Director of the Research Complex at Harwell and Professor at the University of Oxford

Judith Howard
Professor of Chemistry at Durham University

Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Fungi
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss fungi. These organisms are not plants or animals but a kingdom of their own. Millions of species of fungi live on the Earth and they play a crucial role in ecosystems, enabling plants to obtain nutrients and causing material to decay. Without fungi, life as we know it simply would not exist. They are also a significant part of our daily life, making possible the production of bread, wine and certain antibiotics. Although fungi brought about the colonisation of the planet by plants about 450 million years ago, some species can kill humans and devastate trees.

With:

Lynne Boddy
Professor of Fungal Ecology at Cardiff University

Sarah Gurr
Professor of Food Security in the Biosciences Department at the University of Exeter

David Johnson
N8 Chair in Microbial Ecology at the University of Manchester

Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Fungi
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss fungi. These organisms are not plants or animals but a kingdom of their own. Millions of species of fungi live on the Earth and they play a crucial role in ecosystems, enabling plants to obtain nutrients and causing material to decay. Without fungi, life as we know it simply would not exist. They are also a significant part of our daily life, making possible the production of bread, wine and certain antibiotics. Although fungi brought about the colonisation of the planet by plants about 450 million years ago, some species can kill humans and devastate trees.

With:

Lynne Boddy
Professor of Fungal Ecology at Cardiff University

Sarah Gurr
Professor of Food Security in the Biosciences Department at the University of Exeter

David Johnson
N8 Chair in Microbial Ecology at the University of Manchester

Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Cephalopods
access_time2 years ago
The octopus, the squid, the nautilus and the cuttlefish are some of the most extraordinary creatures on this planet, intelligent and yet apparently unlike other life forms. They are cephalopods and are part of the mollusc family like snails and clams, and they have some characteristics in common with those. What sets them apart is the way members of their group can change colour, camouflage themselves, recognise people, solve problems, squirt ink, power themselves with jet propulsion and survive both on land, briefly, and in the deepest, coldest oceans. And, without bones or shells, they grow so rapidly they can outstrip their rivals when habitats change, making them the great survivors and adaptors of the animal world.

With

Louise Allcock
Lecturer in Zoology at the National University of Ireland, Galway

Paul Rodhouse
Emeritus Fellow of the British Antarctic Survey

and

Jonathan Ablett
Senior Curator of Molluscs at the Natural History Museum

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Cephalopods
access_time2 years ago
The octopus, the squid, the nautilus and the cuttlefish are some of the most extraordinary creatures on this planet, intelligent and yet apparently unlike other life forms. They are cephalopods and are part of the mollusc family like snails and clams, and they have some characteristics in common with those. What sets them apart is the way members of their group can change colour, camouflage themselves, recognise people, solve problems, squirt ink, power themselves with jet propulsion and survive both on land, briefly, and in the deepest, coldest oceans. And, without bones or shells, they grow so rapidly they can outstrip their rivals when habitats change, making them the great survivors and adaptors of the animal world.

With

Louise Allcock
Lecturer in Zoology at the National University of Ireland, Galway

Paul Rodhouse
Emeritus Fellow of the British Antarctic Survey

and

Jonathan Ablett
Senior Curator of Molluscs at the Natural History Museum

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Carl+Friedrich+Gauss
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Gauss (1777-1855), widely viewed as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He was a child prodigy, correcting his father's accounts before he was 3, dumbfounding his teachers with the speed of his mental arithmetic, and gaining a wealthy patron who supported his education. He wrote on number theory when he was 21, with his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, which has influenced developments since. Among his achievements, he was the first to work out how to make a 17-sided polygon, he predicted the orbit of the minor planet Ceres, rediscovering it, he found a way of sending signals along a wire, using electromagnetism, the first electromagnetic telegraph, and he advanced the understanding of parallel lines on curved surfaces.

With

Marcus du Sautoy
Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford

Colva Roney-Dougal
Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

And

Nick Evans
Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Carl+Friedrich+Gauss
access_time2 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Gauss (1777-1855), widely viewed as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He was a child prodigy, correcting his father's accounts before he was 3, dumbfounding his teachers with the speed of his mental arithmetic, and gaining a wealthy patron who supported his education. He wrote on number theory when he was 21, with his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, which has influenced developments since. Among his achievements, he was the first to work out how to make a 17-sided polygon, he predicted the orbit of the minor planet Ceres, rediscovering it, he found a way of sending signals along a wire, using electromagnetism, the first electromagnetic telegraph, and he advanced the understanding of parallel lines on curved surfaces.

With

Marcus du Sautoy
Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford

Colva Roney-Dougal
Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

And

Nick Evans
Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Feathered+Dinosaurs
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development of theories about dinosaur feathers, following discoveries of fossils which show evidence of feathers. All dinosaurs were originally thought to be related to lizards - the word 'dinosaur' was created from the Greek for 'terrible lizard' - but that now appears false. In the last century, discoveries of fossils with feathers established that at least some dinosaurs were feathered and that some of those survived the great extinctions and evolved into the birds we see today. There are still many outstanding areas for study, such as what sorts of feathers they were, where on the body they were found, what their purpose was and which dinosaurs had them.

With

Mike Benton
Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Bristol

Steve Brusatte
Reader and Chancellor's Fellow in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Edinburgh

and

Maria McNamara
Senior Lecturer in Geology at University College, Cork


Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Feathered+Dinosaurs
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development of theories about dinosaur feathers, following discoveries of fossils which show evidence of feathers. All dinosaurs were originally thought to be related to lizards - the word 'dinosaur' was created from the Greek for 'terrible lizard' - but that now appears false. In the last century, discoveries of fossils with feathers established that at least some dinosaurs were feathered and that some of those survived the great extinctions and evolved into the birds we see today. There are still many outstanding areas for study, such as what sorts of feathers they were, where on the body they were found, what their purpose was and which dinosaurs had them.

With

Mike Benton
Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Bristol

Steve Brusatte
Reader and Chancellor's Fellow in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Edinburgh

and

Maria McNamara
Senior Lecturer in Geology at University College, Cork


Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Bird+Migration
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why some birds migrate and others do not, how they select their destinations and how they navigate the great distances, often over oceans. For millennia, humans set their calendars to birds' annual arrivals, and speculated about what happened when they departed, perhaps moving deep under water, or turning into fish or shellfish, or hibernating while clinging to trees upside down. Ideas about migration developed in C19th when, in Germany, a stork was noticed with an African spear in its neck, indicating where it had been over the winter and how far it had flown. Today there are many ideas about how birds use their senses of sight and smell, and magnetic fields, to find their way, and about why and how birds choose their destinations and many questions. Why do some scatter and some flock together, how much is instinctive and how much is learned, and how far do the benefits the migrating birds gain outweigh the risks they face?

With

Barbara Helm
Reader at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow

Tim Guilford
Professor of Animal Behaviour and Tutorial Fellow of Zoology at Merton College, Oxford

and

Richard Holland
Senior Lecturer in Animal Cognition at Bangor University

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Bird+Migration
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why some birds migrate and others do not, how they select their destinations and how they navigate the great distances, often over oceans. For millennia, humans set their calendars to birds' annual arrivals, and speculated about what happened when they departed, perhaps moving deep under water, or turning into fish or shellfish, or hibernating while clinging to trees upside down. Ideas about migration developed in C19th when, in Germany, a stork was noticed with an African spear in its neck, indicating where it had been been over winter and how far it had flown. Today there are many ideas about how birds use their senses of sight and smell, and magnetic fields, to find their way, and about why and how birds choose their destinations and many questions. Why do some scatter and some flock together, how much is instinctive and how much is learned, and how far do the benefits the migrating birds gain outweigh the risks they face?

With

Barbara Helm
Reader at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow

Tim Guilford
Professor of Animal Behaviour and Tutorial Fellow of Zoology at Merton College, Oxford

and

Richard Holland
Senior Lecturer in Animal Cognition at Bangor University

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Enzymes
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss enzymes, the proteins that control the speed of chemical reactions in living organisms. Without enzymes, these reactions would take place too slowly to keep organisms alive: with their actions as catalysts, changes which might otherwise take millions of years can happen hundreds of times a second. Some enzymes break down large molecules into smaller ones, like the ones in human intestines, while others use small molecules to build up larger, complex ones, such as those that make DNA. Enzymes also help keep cell growth under control, by regulating the time for cells to live and their time to die, and provide a way for cells to communicate with each other.

With

Nigel Richards
Professor of Biological Chemistry at Cardiff University

Sarah Barry
Lecturer in Chemical Biology at King's College London

And

Jim Naismith
Director of the Research Complex at Harwell
Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Chemical Biology at the University of St Andrews
Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Enzymes
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss enzymes, the proteins that control the speed of chemical reactions in living organisms. Without enzymes, these reactions would take place too slowly to keep organisms alive: with their actions as catalysts, changes which might otherwise take millions of years can happen hundreds of times a second. Some enzymes break down large molecules into smaller ones, like the ones in human intestines, while others use small molecules to build up larger, complex ones, such as those that make DNA. Enzymes also help keep cell growth under control, by regulating the time for cells to live and their time to die, and provide a way for cells to communicate with each other.

With

Nigel Richards
Professor of Biological Chemistry at Cardiff University

Sarah Barry
Lecturer in Chemical Biology at King's College London

And

Jim Naismith
Director of the Research Complex at Harwell
Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Chemical Biology at the University of St Andrews
Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Louis+Pasteur
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and his extraordinary contribution to medicine and science. It is said few people have saved more lives than Pasteur. A chemist, he showed that otherwise identical molecules could exist as 'left' and 'right-handed' versions and that molecules produced by living things were always left-handed. He proposed a germ theory to replace the idea of spontaneous generation. He discovered that microorganisms cause fermentation and disease. He began the process named after him, pasteurisation, heating liquids to 50-60 C to kill microbes. He saved the beer and wine industries in France when they were struggling with microbial contamination. He saved the French silk industry when he found a way of protecting healthy silkworm eggs from disease. He developed vaccines against anthrax and rabies and helped establish immunology. Many of his ideas were developed further after his lifetime, but one of his legacies was a charitable body, the Pasteur Institute, to continue research into infectious disease.

With

Andrew Mendelsohn
Reader in the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London

Anne Hardy
Honorary Professor at the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

and

Michael Worboys
Emeritus Professor in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Louis+Pasteur
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and his extraordinary contribution to medicine and science. It is said few people have saved more lives than Pasteur. A chemist, he showed that otherwise identical molecules could exist as 'left' and 'right-handed' versions and that molecules produced by living things were always left-handed. He proposed a germ theory to replace the idea of spontaneous generation. He discovered that microorganisms cause fermentation and disease. He began the process named after him, pasteurisation, heating liquids to 50-60 C to kill microbes. He saved the beer and wine industries in France when they were struggling with microbial contamination. He saved the French silk industry when he found a way of protecting healthy silkworm eggs from disease. He developed vaccines against anthrax and rabies and helped establish immunology. Many of his ideas were developed further after his lifetime, but one of his legacies was a charitable body, the Pasteur Institute, to continue research into infectious disease.

With

Andrew Mendelsohn
Reader in the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London

Anne Hardy
Honorary Professor at the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

and

Michael Worboys
Emeritus Professor in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Pauli%27s+Exclusion+Principle
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), whose Exclusion Principle is one of the key ideas in quantum mechanics. A brilliant physicist, at 21 Pauli wrote a review of Einstein's theory of general relativity and that review is still a standard work of reference today. The Pauli Exclusion Principle proposes that no two electrons in an atom can be at the same time in the same state or configuration, and it helps explain a wide range of phenomena such as the electron shell structure of atoms. Pauli went on to postulate the existence of the neutrino, which was confirmed in his lifetime. Following further development of his exclusion principle, Pauli was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1945 for his 'decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature'. He also had a long correspondence with Jung, and a reputation for accidentally breaking experimental equipment which was dubbed The Pauli Effect.

With

Frank Close
Fellow Emeritus at Exeter College, University of Oxford

Michela Massimi
Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh

and

Graham Farmelo
Bye-Fellow of Churchill College, University of Cambridge


Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Pauli%27s+Exclusion+Principle
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), whose Exclusion Principle is one of the key ideas in quantum mechanics. A brilliant physicist, at 21 Pauli wrote a review of Einstein's theory of general relativity and that review is still a standard work of reference today. The Pauli Exclusion Principle proposes that no two electrons in an atom can be at the same time in the same state or configuration, and it helps explain a wide range of phenomena such as the electron shell structure of atoms. Pauli went on to postulate the existence of the neutrino, which was confirmed in his lifetime. Following further development of his exclusion principle, Pauli was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1945 for his 'decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature'. He also had a long correspondence with Jung, and a reputation for accidentally breaking experimental equipment which was dubbed The Pauli Effect.



With



Frank Close

Fellow Emeritus at Exeter College, University of Oxford



Michela Massimi

Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh



and



Graham Farmelo

Bye-Fellow of Churchill College, University of Cambridge





Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The+Paleocene-Eocene+Thermal+Maximum
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the high temperatures that marked the end of the Paleocene and start of the Eocene periods, about 50m years ago. Over c1000 years, global temperatures rose more than 5 C on average and stayed that way for c100,000 years more, with the surface of seas in the Arctic being as warm as those in the subtropics. There were widespread extinctions, changes in ocean currents, and there was much less oxygen in the sea depths. The rise has been attributed to an increase of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, though it is not yet known conclusively what the source of those gases was. One theory is that a rise in carbon dioxide, perhaps from volcanoes, warmed up the globe enough for warm water to reach the bottom of the oceans and so release methane from frozen crystals in the sea bed. The higher the temperature rose and the longer the water was warm, the more methane was released. Scientists have been studying a range of sources from this long period, from ice samples to fossils, to try to understand more about possible causes.

With

Dame Jane Francis
Professor of Palaeoclimatology at the British Antarctic Survey

Mark Maslin
Professor of Palaeoclimatology at University College London

And

Tracy Aze
Lecturer in Marine Micropaleontology at the University of Leeds

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The+Paleocene-Eocene+Thermal+Maximum
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the high temperatures that marked the end of the Paleocene and start of the Eocene periods, about 50m years ago. Over c1000 years, global temperatures rose more than 5 C on average and stayed that way for c100,000 years more, with the surface of seas in the Arctic being as warm as those in the subtropics. There were widespread extinctions, changes in ocean currents, and there was much less oxygen in the sea depths. The rise has been attributed to an increase of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, though it is not yet known conclusively what the source of those gases was. One theory is that a rise in carbon dioxide, perhaps from volcanoes, warmed up the globe enough for warm water to reach the bottom of the oceans and so release methane from frozen crystals in the sea bed. The higher the temperature rose and the longer the water was warm, the more methane was released. Scientists have been studying a range of sources from this long period, from ice samples to fossils, to try to understand more about possible causes.

With

Dame Jane Francis
Professor of Palaeoclimatology at the British Antarctic Survey

Mark Maslin
Professor of Palaeoclimatology at University College London

And

Tracy Aze
Lecturer in Marine Micropaleontology at the University of Leeds

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The+Kuiper+Belt
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Kuiper Belt, a vast region of icy objects at the fringes of our Solar System, beyond Neptune, in which we find the dwarf planet Pluto and countless objects left over from the origins of the solar system, some of which we observe as comets. It extends from where Neptune is, which is 30 times further out than the Earth is from the Sun, to about 500 times the Earth-Sun distance. It covers an immense region of space and it is the part of the Solar System that we know the least about, because it is so remote from us and has been barely detectable by Earth-based telescopes until recent decades. Its existence was predicted before it was known, and study of the Kuiper Belt, and how objects move within it, has led to a theory that there may be a 9th planet far beyond Neptune.

With

Carolin Crawford
Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Monica Grady
Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University

And

Stephen Lowry
Reader in Planetary and Space Sciences, University of Kent

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The+Kuiper+Belt
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Kuiper Belt, a vast region of icy objects at the fringes of our Solar System, beyond Neptune, in which we find the dwarf planet Pluto and countless objects left over from the origins of the solar system, some of which we observe as comets. It extends from where Neptune is, which is 30 times further out than the Earth is from the Sun, to about 500 times the Earth-Sun distance. It covers an immense region of space and it is the part of the Solar System that we know the least about, because it is so remote from us and has been barely detectable by Earth-based telescopes until recent decades. Its existence was predicted before it was known, and study of the Kuiper Belt, and how objects move within it, has led to a theory that there may be a 9th planet far beyond Neptune.

With

Carolin Crawford
Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Monica Grady
Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University

And

Stephen Lowry
Reader in Planetary and Space Sciences, University of Kent

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Maths+in+the+Early+Islamic+World
access_time3 years ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flourishing of maths in the early Islamic world, as thinkers from across the region developed ideas in places such as Baghdad's House of Wisdom. Among them were the Persians Omar Khayyam, who worked on equations, and Al-Khwarizmi, latinised as Algoritmi and pictured above, who is credited as one of the fathers of algebra, and the Jewish scholar Al-Samawal, who converted to Islam and worked on mathematical induction. As well as the new ideas, there were many advances drawing on Indian, Babylonian and Greek work and, thanks to the recording or reworking by mathematicians in the Islamic world, that broad range of earlier maths was passed on to western Europe for further study.

With

Colva Roney-Dougal
Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

Peter Pormann
Professor of Classics & Graeco-Arabic Studies at the University of Manchester

And

Jim Al-Khalili
Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
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