Previous Meetings

Some topics in our previous meetings have included:

Is sport more valuable than music in today's society.....? Nick Cox

Charlotte Bronte explained how the eye both sought the truth in mundane experiences and the visionary experience of dreams..... Professor Dinah Birch

Technology has revolutionised our access to news, knowledge and opinions, yet quality political journalism is in the doldrums..... Jim Hancock

01

Oct

Technological dead ends: ideas that have gone nowhere

So many mind-blowing ideas and inventions have never been widely embraced by Society! Perhaps we might have enjoyed more of the magic of Man’s inventive prowess had at least some of these logic-defying ideas been more fervently pursued. Dr Southall takes a sideways look at the wonders of the improbable.

 Dr Dave Southall, Retired lecturer in Electronic Engineering MMU
 01/10/2018, 7:30PM
09

Apr

Industrialisation, Population Change and Public Health in Lancashire

The fact that Great Britain was the world's pioneering industrial nation from around 1750 to 1850 is firmly established, but historians continue to dispute the pace, the extent and the impact of the Revolution. So, what can research tell us about the ways in which population growth, urbanisation and the public health consequences affected our local forebears?

 Dr David Crompton
 09/04/2018, 7:30PM
05

Mar

Slow Boat Cargo

Liz McIvor, the well-known historian of Britain's canal development, will examine the ways cargoes were moved by land and water before the canal boom and the 18th Century 'Amazon effect.' She will explain the large-scale engineering projects in the industrial period for long distance haulage by waterways, and comment on the post-industrial use of this heritage..

 Liz McIvor
 05/03/2018, 7:30PM
05

Feb

The Golden Age of Murder

The speaker is a locally-based lawyer who has earned distinction in every field of crime fiction. He is currently Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association and President of the Detection Club. He will discuss the crime fiction of the golden age between the wars, not cosy escapist cliché as some claim, but a substantial body of literature, a transmutation of real criminal cases, of the stresses in the authors’ lives and an urge to come to terms with the senseless carnage of the trenches.

 Martin Edwards
 05/02/2018, 7:30PM
04

Dec

Excavating Engels

The speaker will use recently uncovered archaeological evidence about Manchester’s historical slums to see if it can throw useful light on what Victorian social commentators said about problems of over-crowding, immigration, poor construction, poor ventilation, disease and sanitation.

 Dr Mike Nevell, Salford University
 04/12/2017, 7:30PM
06

Nov

Bog Bodies

The speaker will examine how these compelling Iron Age and early Roman relics enable us to encounter - face-to-face - people from our ancient past. They and those who brought about their deaths evidently had beliefs and understandings about the world very different from ours, and the speaker will discuss new evidence and different ideas relating to one of the most local examples: Worsley Man.

 Dr Melanie Giles, Manchester University
 06/11/2017, 7:30PM
02

Oct

Experiments in Philosophy

This will be a brief introduction to the subject of Experimental Philosophy, a very recent and exciting development in the subject of philosophy. The talk will cover some aspects of the thinking behind the subject and the methods employed. Concentrating on ethics, morality and moral responsibility the meeting will include some audience participation. No expertise required - it's all intuitive!

 Mick Dean, President, Warrington Lit and Phil
 02/10/2017, 7:30PM
03

Apr

What a Poet Sees

Interviewed by the Reverend Canon Michael Burgess, this distinguished prize-winning poet will discuss the art of poetry and his own writing, and will read from his work. After graduating in philosophy and theology and training as a journalist he has worked as a radio producer, a documentary film maker and as Head of Development for BBC Religion and Ethics. He left the BBC to teach at MMU, and to focus on writing, including lyrics and libretti for the composer James MacMillan. He could be seen as a modern John Donne, producing poems which are sharply observed and concise, but rich in metaphysical meaning.]

 Professor Michael Symmons Roberts, Manchester Metropolitan University
 03/04/2017, 7:30PM
06

Mar

Ruskin and the Daguerreotype

The Ruskin Library at Lancaster University, of which Professor Wildman is Director, holds 125 daguerreotypes – the first permanent photographic process – out of the 300 which formed John Ruskin’s collection by 1858. Ruskin’s interest in this new medium will be explained, illustrated in the range of subject matter which the images cover, chiefly architecture and landscape in France, Switzerland and Italy.

 Professor Stephen Wildman, Lancaster University
 06/03/2017, 7:30PM
06

Feb

Manchester Broadside Ballads

Jennifer Reid is a Lancashire folk enthusiast from Middleton, Manchester. Jennifer will perform broadside ballads from the collections housed in Manchester Central Library, Chetham's Library and the Working Class Movement Library and deliver a talk around the themes and historical content of the ballads. The ballads feature Lancashire dialect, working life during the Industrial Revolution and the bawdy nature of Victorian society.

 Jennifer Reid, Independent Scholar and Singer
 06/02/2017, 7:30PM
05

Dec

Depicting the Dead

Professor Wilkinson is Director of the School of Art & Design and an expert on face reconstruction from skulls (e.g. Richard III, J.S. Bach, Rameses II and Mary, Queen of Scots). She has a background in art and science and her research and creative work sits at the forefront of art-science fusion and includes forensic art, human anatomy, medical art, face recognition, forensic science, anthropology, 3D visualization, digital art and craniofacial identification.

 Professor Caroline Wilkinson, Liverpool John Moores University
 05/12/2016, 7:30PM
07

Nov

The Face of Jesus

Dr Bill Cooke teaches philosophy and religious studies at Priestley College and is author of six books on aspects of intellectual history, and International Director of the Center for Inquiry's Transnational Program. Using images of art from the last two thousand years, Bill Cooke will show how our understanding of Jesus has never stood still. What was seen as an unchangeable and fundamental truth one century was a heresy or irrelevance the next. So where does that leave Jesus now? How does he look in 2016? Who was he?

 Dr Bill Cooke
 07/11/2016, 7:30PM
03

Oct

Venom World

The speaker will illustrate the rich variety (what Darwin would call “forms most beautiful and most wonderful”) of venomous and poisonous animals found in nature, the developmental arms race between predators and prey and the evolutionary principles which underlie these conflicts.

 Kevin Arbuckle, Liverpool University
 03/10/2016, 7:30PM
04

Apr

The Paintings of Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) is an enigma. During the Golden Age of Dutch art (1648-72), when the United Provinces’ phenomenal economic, political and cultural flowering was at its height and when many painters of the period depicted the bustling life of the republic, Vermeer chose, most often, to paint a single woman in a corner of a room. Tim Stimson’s interpretation of Vermeer’s uniqueness is based upon insights into human psychology and asks the question: what was the source of the unique stillness in Vermeer’s paintings, the meditative quality that so many fraught modern viewers find restful, the silence, an odd term to use for the visual arts?

 Tim Stimson
 04/04/2016, 7:30PM
07

Mar

Victorian Literature and Science

Ever since C.P. Snow's 1959 lecture about 'the two cultures' we have tended to see science and literature as two distinct camps, failing to communicate. In the nineteenth century there was much less of a distinction: Charles Darwin, for instance, was aware that his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a leading published poet as well as an eminent physician and scientific speculator; mixed familial legacies were as important as disciplinary exclusivity. This lecture will focus on three families who led the field of Victorian, and post-Victorian, evolutionary science: the Darwins, the Huxleys and the Batesons : Professor Amigoni will explore the ways in which these families participated in a literary, as well as a scientific, intellectual inheritance; and with what consequences for culture.

 Professor David Amigoni, University of Keele
 07/03/2016, 7:30PM
01

Feb

Sonic Wonderland

What are the sonic wonders of the world? Trevor Cox, a renowned professor who engineers classrooms and concert halls, has made a career out of eradicating bizarre and unwanted sounds. But after an epiphany in the London sewers, Trevor now revels in exotic noises – creaking glaciers, whispering galleries, stalactite organs, musical roads, humming dunes, seals that sound like alien angels, and a Mayan pyramid that chirps like a bird. Join him and discover how sound is made and altered by the environment, become a better listener in a visual world, and open your ears to the glorious cacophony around you.

 Professor Trevor Cox, Salford University
 01/02/2016, 7:30PM
07

Dec

Donating Mitochondria – the Issues

John Harris is Lord Alliance Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, also Director of the Wellcome Strategic Programme on The Human Body: its Scope, Limits and Future. Professor Harris will explore the question of whether there exist principled objections to germline modification in general and Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (MRT) in particular. MRT is the therapy which results in what the press have called “three parent families” because the resulting child has DNA from three different people in its genetic endowment. The very idea of intervening in the germline of humans, to modify, if not human nature at least the genetic endowment of some humans, continues to encounter hostility that is unrelated to the expected benefit or to the safety and efficacy of such procedures. To understand the pervasive hostility to the idea of germline modification we need first to look at the roots of this hostility in developments in the 1970’s. Professor Harris will base his lecture on a paper “Germline Modification and The Burden of Human Existence,” which will be published in January 2016, so the Society will be getting a preview.

 Professor John Harris, Manchester University
 07/12/2015, 7:30PM
02

Nov

The Last Laugh of the Railway King

Mancunian Sir Edward Watkin MP, 1819-1901 created the Great Central Line into Marylebone Station, started digging a Channel Tunnel and found a coalfield in Kent, helped to create Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway, founded the port of Grimsby. A man of outstanding energy and many schemes, not all of them practical, he was in many respects ahead of his time.

 Geoff Scargill
 02/11/2015, 7:30PM