Past news

Archived news items from the website are listed below.

If you have a query about any old newsletters from the society, please contact the office and they can consult the Society's archives.


Have you booked yet for this full day outing?  Only a few seats are left on the bus so if you want to take part in this trip please book as soon as possible.  It has been planned to take in two very contrasting places in north-west Cheshire.  Firstly the rural village of Daresbury with its 12th century church, distinctive sandstone houses and Lewis Carroll Centre as the author, Charles Ludwig Dodgson was born there. We will stop for morning refreshments, a talk and a chance to look round. Secondly the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum which lies at the former heartland of the 19th/early 20th century ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and is housed in the remaining Grade II listed building of a converted soap works. There you will have lunch and a tour of the Centre, its Museum of the Chemical Industry  and its wide range of educational activities while also being able to see and learn about the new bridge being built across the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal and scheduled to open in late 2017. 360-degree spectacular panoramic views are possible from the 4th floor Observatory of the whole of the Mersey estuary and the nature reserve which has been reclaimed from the former industrial landscape.

En route there and back there will be a full commentary on the bus by Diana Leitch, who was born and brought up in this area, and you will get the chance to see the historic village of Halton with its 11th century castle, the ancient sandstone village of Weston, the quarry where the stone for St Ann’s Church was mined and the developments and regeneration of some of the industries in the area.  Sir Piers Dutton’s former home at Dutton was moved stone by stone to Sussex. Why and where was it? You will find out on this trip. For canal enthusiasts, there is also plenty to see as the area has many original canals including the Sankey/St Helens Canal which is the oldest in England.

The pickup points are Deansgate/Castlefield (Deansgate Railway Station on Whitworth Street West) and East Didsbury (by the row of shops on Wilmslow Road opposite East Didsbury Railway Station).  

At £19.50 per person inclusive (except for lunch at Catalyst) this is a trip not to be missed and an opportunity for an interesting day out with fellow Lit and Phil members and their guests.

To book for the outing on Tuesday 7th June, please click here.

It is with the greatest sadness that we have learned of the death of Professor Sir Harry Kroto FRS (1939-2016). This scientific genius, brilliant communicator of chemistry and genuinely charismatic man was a Northerner by upbringing and education having been educated at Bolton School and the University of Sheffield.  Much of his academic career was spent in the Chemistry Department at the University of Sussex. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996 for his work on a third form of carbon known and named by Harry as ‘Buckminsterfullerene’. He shared the prize with Professors Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. Harry was knighted in the same year for his contributions to chemistry.

On 8th December 1997 Harry became only the 10th recipient of the prestigious Dalton Medal of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. This medal first given in 1898 to Henry Edward Schunck is only rarely awarded and is given to those who have made a significant contribution to science. Sir Henry Roscoe, Lord Rutherford and Lord Bragg were recipients before Harry.

Professor Sir Harry Kroto with Dalton blue plaque

In 2003 Harry took part in the week-long Bicentenary celebrations in Manchester for the publication of John Dalton’s famous paper entitled ’On the absorption of gases by water and other liquids’ and of  his table of the relative weights of ultimate particles of bodies which foreshadowed his atomic theory and revolutionised chemistry. The paper and table were published in the Memoirs and Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in 1803. On 14th October 2003 Harry gave the Dalton Lecture in Manchester Town Hall in a joint event between the Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry. It was entitled “2010, A Nanospace Odyssey” and was attended by hundreds of people. During the same week Harry unveiled, with Lord Mayor, Councillor Audrey Jones, a blue plaque to John Dalton in the Peace Gardens in St Peter’s Square, Manchester. This plaque commemorated Dalton’s  paper and also his many years as President (1816-1844) of the Lit and Phil.  The plaque has been temporarily removed for the Metro system work but will be reinstated later this year in the same locality. Harry and his wife, Margaret, also visited the John Rylands Library on Deansgate to see the remaining fragments of Dalton’s scientific papers, which survived the bombing in Manchester in December 1941, and which are housed there since being acquired from the Lit and Phil in the early 1970s.

Our condolences go to his wife, Margaret, and sons, Stephen and David. Science and the world have lost a very remarkable man.

Lord Mayor Councilor Audrey Jones, Harry Kroto and Professors Paul O'Brien and Alexander Donnachie  in the background at the unveiling of blue plaque


Harry Kroto and his wife Margaret at John Rylands Library -  (L - R) Dr Diana Leitch (Associate Director John Rylands Library), Harry Kroto, Pauline Meakins (Royal Society of Chemistry), Margaret Kroto.

Thursday 19th May – meet at the St James’s Club for 10.30am

The St James’s Club invites Members and their Guests to participate in our revamped Local History Circle. Once again we are delighted to welcome back Local Historian and Tour Guide, John Alker. Take an Architectural walk through the centre of the city to fully appreciate its buildings finding out facts you never knew about the buildings you have known and passed by for many a year.
After refreshment at the club to fortify you for the walk, we will proceed to The Portico Library then along Mosley Street and its charms to St Peters Square and the Town Hall Extension and its cousin the Central Library. Then along to the Bridgewater Hall passing the Midland Hotel and on to view the 21st Century colossus that is the Hilton Hotel and then back by the many examples of our Victorian past to Albert Square and the “Jewel in the Crown” the Town Hall before finally climbing King Street and its monuments to the power that was Manchester in the nineteenth century.
By that time, everyone should have worked up an appetite to appreciate the Luncheon Hospitality of the Club.

About the Speaker

John Alker works as a green badge guide in the city offering over 40 different walks: social and industrial history walks, art walks music and theatre walks, architectural and cultural walks, political and area walks. His background is in Music and he is a classically trained pianist who spent 30 years lecturing at different levels after completing a music degree. John is also a keen historian particularly in industrial history. He is an active poet with 7 editions as well as an active jazz musician.

Menu & Costs

The meeting costs £25 per person, including lunch. The menu for the lunch is:

Minced Beef & Onion Pie Served with mashed potato & seasonal vegetables
Cherries Jubilee

How to Book

To make a booking, please e-mail: or call telephone: 0161 829 3009.
Parking: Members & Guests of the Club may park at King Street West NCP for up to 12 hours for £9. Validation tickets to be purchased at the bar before departing.

St James’s Club, 45 Spring Gardens, M2 2BG

New Lit & Phil Offices

14th April, 2016

Please be aware that the Lit & Phil have now moved office. The telephone number remains the same but our new address is:

Floor 5, Church House
90 Deansgate
M3 2GP



Sir Tom Devine delivered his lecture on the impact of the Scottish referendum back in October. His exploration of the topic and his brief speculations given in the lecture were a part of a wider writing project for Devine to air his findings publicly resulting in 'Independence or Union: Questions from Scotland's Past and Scotland's Present'. Unfortunately, at the time of the lecture the book was still in press and so was not available to attendees who wished to read more about the subject. The book has now been released this month with more information about the book to be found here along with a list of retailers.

Previously, Sir Tom Devine had written The Scotland Trilogy, a series on Scottish history in three parts. For those wishing to do more background reading, you can find further information about these books here.

We would like to make attendees of the following lectures aware of other big events happening in the city on the same date so that you can allow extra time to get to the venue in case of increased traffic.

  • Tuesday 8th March – The Future of Museums in the UK – Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester Arena Concert)
  • Tuesday 5th April – Modelling Flood Inundation from Street to Continental Scales – Manchester Dental Education Centre (Manchester Arena Concert)
  • Tuesday 12th April – An Introduction to Non-Verbal Communication – Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester Arena Concert)
  • Tuesday 10th May – The Story of Manchester’s Taj Mahal – stranger than fiction – Royal Northern College of Music (Old Trafford Cricket Match)


Professor Keith Ross

22nd February, 2016

Photo Credit: Salford University


It is with deep regret that we have to inform Members of the Society about the death of Professor Keith Ross.

We have no further details at present, but as soon as we do we will communicate with all members.

As we are sure you would wish, we have passed on immediate condolences to Judith & her family.

John Buckley
Honorary Secretary




Please click on the image for a bigger version


A review of our last Young Person’s lecture held on 2nd February appeared in last week’s Manchester Weekly News.

You can now find pictures taken by Dr David Leitch of the Young Person’s event on 2nd February 2016 in the event photos section. As you can see, the high school and sixth form students in attendance got stuck into the demonstrations and hopefully came away from the evening inspired and eager to learn more about the anaesthetist’s profession!


This week marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Manchester by German forces during Christmas week 1940. The Christmas blitz not only hit some of Manchester’s iconic buildings such as Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, the Royal Exchange, Smithfield Market, Cheethams Hospital, the Gaiety Theatre and St Ann’s Church but claimed over 680 lives, injuring hundreds more and leaving 8,000 households without a home [1]. The fires that spread through buildings following the bombings destroyed the Lit & Phil’s home at 36 George Street where 50,000 volumes that made up the library archives (est. 1783) also perished. The bust of John Dalton presented to the Society in 1903 was buried in the rubble but was salvaged and restored, still sitting in the Lit & Phil offices to this day.


Left: Inside of the Lit & Phil’s HQ at 36 George Street before the Blitz.
Right: Firefighting the fires that spread through Manchester buildings after the bombings.


John Dalton bust currently at the Lit & Phil’s office


The plaque accompanying the John Dalton bust reads:

“Presented by Henry Enfield Roscoe. Buried during the Blitz 1940. Recovered and restored by French Kier Property Investments and presented to Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society 1981”


Sketch of George Street

To mark this anniversary, the Imperial War Museum Manchester is running a ‘Blitzed Brits’ exhibition until April next year, alongside other World War II exhibits including an exploration of the ‘forgotten histories of service personnel and civilians who came to Britain in the Second World War’ and a fashion exhibition discovering the style of the 1940s from air-raid shelter chic to‘Fashion on the Ration’.
Additionally, the Manchester Evening News have a number of articles covering the anniversary, including videosinteractive mapsand a live blog with numerous resources.
Another resource which may be of interest to those researching the Blitz is the Greater Manchester Blitz Victims database which hosts statistics and details of over 1,400 civilians of Manchester and surrounding areas who were killed during the Blitz.

[1] Manchester’s devastating Christmas Blitz’, BBC News, 22nd December 2015

French Athlete.
N.B. This only an illustrative image, the athlete above is not connected with doping

Unfortunately the first speaker of the New Year, Dr Simon Kemp, is no longer able to give his talk on 6th January 2016. Hopefully Dr Kemp will be able to deliver the lecture in the next year’s Programme. Instead, Professor Charles Galasko will be giving another sport-themed lecture on ‘Doping in Sports’.

This is very topical with all the current problems with International Athletics & the accusations during this year’s Tour de France. The lecture will discuss the history of doping; the list of banned substances including anabolic steroids, stimulants & EPO; the rationale for their use, their risks & why they should be banned; the Balco scandal & its implications; the Puerto trial & its implications. Reference will be made to State control of doping. The development of UK Anti-Doping & a proposed new classification will be discussed as well as the question of prevention & whether it will ever be achieved & the role of the Therapeutic Use Exemption Committee since many of the banned agents also have an important therapeutic role in a variety of conditions.

Professor Charles Galasko is the Emeritus Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Manchester. He has also been President of the British Orthopaedic Association; President, International Orthopaedic Research Society; Vice-President, Royal College of Surgeons; Chairman, Joint Committee for Higher Surgical Training ( UK & Ireland). His clinical practice was at Hope (now Salford Royal ) Hospital & The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

He has a major interest in Sport & Exercise Medicine. He has been a Medical Officer at Olympic & Commonwealth Games as well as other International & other competitions, where his duties have included doping control. He was instrumental in the development & recognition of the new Medical Specialty of Sport & Exercise Medicine & was elected the Inaugural President of the Faculty of Sport & Exercise Medicine (UK), the governing body for the new specialty.

Photos from November's YP Lecture

10th December, 2015

You can now find pictures in the event photos section taken by Dr David Leitch of the Young Person’s lecture given by Professor David Southwood on the subject of the Huygens Probe and the Philae Minisat on 11th November 2015.

The event photos page now has some photos of Sir Tom Devine giving his thought-provoking lecture to the Lit & Phil on the topic of the Scottish Independence Referendum 2015 and its implications for the Union.

The ‘Devo Manc’ debate is underway and the city and its region are entering a new era. It comes as Manchester is once again at the forefront of global innovation, echoing the legacy left by the region’s pre-eminence in industry over 150 years ago.

The vision is not new but comes as a result of a great deal of intense hard work. All of the development in science, arts and business innovation has allowed the city to be more prepared than ever to seize upon the opportunity of limited devolution and becoming the first region to do so.

Sir Howard Bernstein has been in the forefront of this vision and there is no better way in proving this but by printing the paper he presented to the Society nearly 20 years ago on the 18th March 1996.

Please click on the image to be taken to the PDF of the full article.

Sir Howard notes the cooperation between the Lit and Phil and the City Council at the start of the address and we anticipate that with the forthcoming lecture and the ongoing development of ‘The Northern Powerhouse’ that we can once again be partners and leaders at this historic time.

Since 1781 the Manchester Literary & Philosophical Society has played a large role in the city’s cultural and intellectual scenes and has earned the honourable titles of the first and oldest Literary and Philosophical Society in the UK and the second oldest Learned Society in the World.

Not only will this lecture outline the path in which the region will progress but also your future within that path.

Please see below for a synopsis of the talk.

‘The Northern Powerhouse’  – Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive Manchester City Council

The term ‘Northern Powerhouse’ may have come into common currency recently, but the underlying concept is one which our great northern cities – with Manchester very much in the vanguard – have been advocating for many years.

Put simply, it’s about recognising the need to rebalance the nation’s economy with major northern cities, both collectively and individually, being backed to unlock their potential. This means complementing, not competing with London and the South East. But it also means recognising and investing in the distinctive strengths of cities such as Manchester – whether it’s in culture or cutting edge research.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Manchester is fundamental to this vision – and that unless Manchester can realise its full potential no such rebalancing of the national economy will be possible.

This means investing in excellence, whether it’s improving transport infrastructure – for example the £15bn One North proposals to radically improve east-west transport connections between northern cities and complement HS2, supporting cultural facilities such as the £78m new Factory Manchester Arts Centre or supporting pioneering research into advanced materials such as graphene.


But also integral to the Northern Powerhouse concept is the recognition that city regions such as Greater Manchester – places with their acts together and clear strategic visions – need to be freed from stifling over-centralisation. Greater Manchester is in the forefront of the devolution agenda which recognises that instead of having ‘one size fits all’ national policies imposed centrally, we are better placed to create the conditions for growth and improving people’s lives by investing in local needs and priorities. This will enable us to use the available funding in a much smarter way.

For those who were not able to attend Simon Singh’s fascinating lecture about the inclusion of mathematics in The Simpsons and Futurama, here are a few resources Simon signposted at the end of the talk for those like equal parts fun and maths!

Numberphile The web page is covered with formulae and figures – you just click on one to see a video relating to it.

Vi Hart Vi Hart provides lots of maths-based videos that are informative and entertaining.  

Martin Gardner He composed maths puzzles for Scientific American for many years and passed away in 2010. Type his name into Google to find books and example puzzles. For example:

Simon Singh, who is speaking for the Lit & Phil in April, has been featured in the Telegraph this week after highlighting that the writers of the cartoon TV show The Simpsons had inserted a formula for working out the mass of the Higgs Boson into the show through main character Homer Simpson 14 years before it was discovered in real life! Simon Singh will be speaking more about the mathematics hidden in The Simpsons and its sister show Futuruma at 7pm on 14th April 2015 at the Manchester Conference Center.  To read the rest of the news article, click here.

Passing of Thomas Webster

16th February, 2015

We are sorry to learn of the passing of one of our members, Thomas Webster. We have been informed that he had passed away in December 2014 at the age of 96. Mr Webster had been a member of the Lit & Phil for 23 years and formerly worked in the chemical industry.

For those who may have met Mr Webster at Lit & Phil meetings and who may wish to pay tribute to his memory, the request by the family as per the newspaper obituary (here) is to donate to the Manchester branch of Age UK.

Rev. Richard Hills MBE

7th January, 2015

We are pleased to inform our members that long-serving, honorary member of the Lit & Phil, Reverend Richard Leslie Hills, was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for services to Industrial Heritage. Members can expect to read an extended article about Rev. Hills’s achievements in the forthcoming March newsletter.

Our congratulations and very best wishes to Rev. Hills from all at the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society.


Edward Fletcher Cass 1937-2014

23rd September, 2014

Eddie Cass

Anyone attempting to pay tribute to Eddie Cass would be daunted by the challenge of covering the whole range of his work, activities and interests. A man who had successful careers in coal mining, banking and academia he was the ultimate polymath and, as the archetypal Manchester man, ever modest – more concerned with doing than in reciting what he had done. It was easy to have known him for years but not know, for instance, that he
was one of the UK’s experts on the history of playing cards.

Eddie was born in Longsight and, apart from a few years in Birmingham, lived in Manchester all his life. He grew up in wartime east Manchester, then its most industrial part, and went to the Central High School in what is now Sheena Simon College (where years later he served as governor). His first job was as a coal miner in Bradford Colliery, where he formed an attachment to the NUM (though not always its leadership); he became friends with Jim Allen, the future playwright – they would ‘adjourn’ shifts down the pit to discuss politics.

He left mining and turned to banking, a move which his father considered as giving up a ‘proper job’, and as a bank clerk for Williams Deacons and then the RBS he studied part time at Manchester College of Commerce, in the old Mechanics Institute, a building he got to know later in a different context. Manchester in the early 60s was duffle coats, the Kardomah Cafe, frothy coffee, jazz bands and folk clubs and in that milieu he met, courted and married Sheila – the rock and mainstay of his life – and they went on to raise three sons. A successful banker, he maintained a thirst for knowledge and an insatiable curiosity for a variety of subjects which sprang from the history of his home town. It encompassed industrial archaeology, architecture, canals, food and art history. Book collecting on a major scale turned him into a bibliophile and in later life he studied part time for an MA in the Manchester Studies Department of Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University).
Though bookish, he was no dry-as-dust scholar. Eddie was the most clubbable man. To walk in with him into a city-centre restaurant was to be the focus of a shower of greetings of
‘Hello Eddie’ – from all parts of the room. He had a wonderful gift for making friends and used his powerful intellectual and organisational skills to give something back to the Manchester cultural institutions, from which he and Sheila derived so much pleasure. These included Cornerhouse, John Rylands Library, the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, the ‘Lit and Phil’, the Portico Library, the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester University, the North West Labour History Society, and the Royal Exchange Theatre and many more, including the British Association for Friends of Museums, on which he represented the NW.
He served as Company Secretary of the National Museum of Labour History (the Pump House Museum), where he was a constant source of support. Joining a formidable board of trustees, including Jack Jones, Michael Foot, John Monks, and Graham Stringer, he rapidly gained respect and admiration for wise negotiation and for putting in place the solution of sometimes difficult problems.
Eddie took early retirement in the mid 90s and embarked on an academic career. In quick succession he finished a PhD on Lancashire Cotton Culture and curated a series of exhibitions on subjects ranging from North West Fiction to Elizabeth David, the food writer. His recent research focussed on Lancashire folk life; he lectured and published widely and broadcast on the radio. He wrote the definitive book on Lancashire Pace-Egg plays and was a research fellow on an Aberdeen University project which took him to the USA and Canada; he lectured and curated in Germany for his good friend, the late Detlef Hoffman. Eddie became active in the Folklore Society and the Society for Folk Life Studies and uniquely served as national president of both bodies. He was very recently honoured with the Coote Lake Medal of the Folk Life Society. Awarded for ‘outstanding research and scholarship’, he joins an illustrious list which includes Christina Hole, and Iona and Peter Opie.
Eddie’s priceless geniality and downright decency generated enormous love and loyalty from all those around him. We all mourn him and will all miss him immeasurably.
He is survived by his wife Sheila and sons Nick, Tim and Tony.

Nick Mansfield, Brian Rarity – September 2014

It’s Lancashire, 1939, the beginning of World War II. A factory is built to produce artificial silk, sometimes called viscose or rayon. A T Boyle’s family worked in the north’s factories for years, creating filaments for women’s tights, webbing for wounds and the insides of tyres, and vibrantly pigmented threads used in fashion.

Four years of research resulted in the novel from Pakistan to Preston, a fictional love story about teenagers Tommy O’Reilly and Sunehri Saleem set against the backdrop of real scientific processes in the making of artificial silk from wood.

Now a new exhibition, curated by A T Boyle, Colours, Community and Chemistry will be opening in October of this year at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

It is a contemporary collaboration between regional artists and scientists featuring rare films, photos, words, research and textiles. This fascinating exhibition and accompanying events illuminates the north’s manufacturing foundations, at the same time as heralding its strong future.

For more information about the exhibition please visit the Colours, Community & Chemistry website.

There will also be an event before the launch of the exhibition where Hazel Blears, the MP for Salford and Eccles, will be showing a short film she has made especially for the exhibition about her student holiday work at Salford’s Cussons soap factory. The film screening and opportunity to meet and discuss the film with Hazel Blears will be free at the People’s History Museum on Monday 22nd September at 5.30pm.

This exhibition is linked to the forthcoming Manchester Science Festival 2014.