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The Lit & Phil’s annual Percival Lecture took place on Wednesday 15 May, hosted by the University of Manchester (they, along with the University of Salford and the Manchester Metropolitan University sponsor this lecture on a rotational basis once every 3 years).

We were very pleased that this year the event took place in the beautiful Grand Hall of the Whitworth Art Gallery. Indeed, we had not one, but two very prestigious speakers – Alistair Hudson, the Director of the Whitworth and Manchester Art Galleries, and Esme Ward, the director of Manchester Museum. Both had taken up their posts in early 2018 and have some very exciting plans for their respective institutions.



Their chosen title was ‘University cultural engagement in the 21-st century- case studies from the Directors of the Whitworth and Manchester Museum’ . We heard about how both the Art Gallery and the Museum are increasingly engaging with the citizens and students of Manchester, in ways which are relevant to the 21st Century, along with preserving our past heritages in both traditional and diverse ways.




David Brooks

29th May, 2019


We are sad to report that David Brooks, who had been with the Society since 2005 passed away. He will be sadly missed by the friends he made during his time with us.

David was also part of the Manchester Statistical Society who advised that his funeral will be held at 12.15 p.m. on Thursday, 30th May at Rowan Chapel Stockport Crematorium, Buxton Rd, Stockport, SK2 6LS.


Rev Dr Richard Hills

23rd May, 2019


We were saddened to hear about the passing of Rev Dr Richard Hills aged 82 earlier this month.

Rev Dr Richard Hills was one of the Society’s longest-standing members, having joined in 1968. He had been awarded an Honorary membership and was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to Industrial Heritage.


In the words of fellow member and friend David Higginson:

In the case of the Society’s award of honorary membership, it was very much in respect of his recording over almost 50 years the part played by Manchester as birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, not least in helping to secure Liverpool Road Station as the iconic site for the city’s Museum of Science and Industry. He was also recognised internationally as an authority on the history of paper and papermaking and of water, wind and steam power.


The funeral will take place on the Tuesday, 4th June,2019 at 12.30 p.m. at the Parish Church of St.Michael and All Angels, Mottram-in -Longdendale, SK14 6JB, with service and committal at 2.00 p.m. at Dukinfield Crematorium Hall Green Road, Dukinfield, SK16 4EP.


No flowers

Donations in his memory to Parkinson’s UK and Willow Wood Hospice.

Please send these to:

Frank Massey & Son, Ltd., Funeral Directors, 49, Mottram Road, Hyde SK14 2NN


Stuart Kay

21st May, 2019


We are sad to report to Members that Stuart Kay passed away on 9 May.

Stuart joined the Society in 1968 and was a well-respected member who will be remembered fondly by the many friends he made during his time with us.


We were not directly given any information about the funeral but the funeral directors published the following notice:

“The funeral will take place on Tuesday, 21st May with service and committal at Oldham Crematorium at 12noon.

Family flowers only please, donations in lieu if desired to Alzheimer's Society c/o Pogson & Armitage Ltd, 53 Huddersfield Road, Diggle, Saddleworth OL3 5NT To whom all enquiries should be made Tel: 01457 872149”.


Uncovering the Past

11th March, 2019


The forthcoming 'Dig Greater Manchester' lecture by Dr Mike Nevell on Thursday 14th March 2019 at the MCC will look at the aim, scope and outcomes of this community archaeology project; which ran from 2011 to 2017 and involved excavating eleven sites in Greater Manchester, ranging from textile mills and workers' housing to owners' houses and a cavalry barracks.

We in the office are especially looking forward to this archaeology-themed lecture as we recently heard a rather unusual story concerning the rediscovery of the John Dalton Bronze Bust...


Sir Henry Roscoe commissioned a bust of John Dalton from a noted sculptress Ruby Winifred Levick and presented it as a gift to the Society in 1903. It was displayed in the Society's House at 36 George Street until the fateful night in December 1940 when, during the Blitz, the building was burned to the ground and the bust presumed lost.

Twenty years later, a new home for the Lit and Phil was erected on the same site on George Street. It was, unfortunately, constructed with high-alumina cement and suffered what was popularly known as "concrete cancer". By 1980, the building was beyond repair and the site was sold to French Kier Property Investments who demolished it. It was while deep foundations were being dug for an office block  that the excavator hit an object that was soon identified as the lost bronze. It had suffered some damage and the developers made an extremely generous gesture, paying for its restoration by Phoebe Clements of Leeds City Art Gallery. The restored bust was re-presented to the Society in November 1981 at what was appreciatively described  in the Annual Report as "a quite splendid lunch" at the Hotel Piccadilly.

In subsequent years, it was displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry. It has now been returned to the Society's current premises where it keeps the office staff company.


We look forward to seeing you at this week's event!



Geoffrey Jessup

22nd August, 2018

We are sad to report to Members that Dr Geoffrey Jessup, who had been with the Society since 2003, passed away on 14 August. We have been contacted by Geoffrey's family who would like us to pass on details of his memorial service so that as many of his friends at the Lit & Phil can attend as possible. A service of thanksgiving for his life will be held on 29 August at 2 p.m. at Gatley URC, Elm Rd, Gatley SK8 4LY.

Geoffrey's family have asked that there be no flowers brought, but that if anyone wishes to make a donation in his memory, you may choose between the following three charities: MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières); St Ann's Hospice, Heald Green; and Barnabus Manchester.

His daughter has also indicated that if anyone attending from the Lit & Phil wishes to share memories of Geoffrey in the service, they would be welcome to, just as they would if they wish to share them over a cup of tea in the church halls after the service.

2018-19 Season Preview

26th July, 2018

Please make a diary note of upcoming events from the 2018-19 Season preview.

* Please note that lecture titles are subject to change and update before the final programme information is released later in the summer. Always check the Lit & Phil website for the latest details of lectures.



This year's programme was a good mixture of applications of science and technology to practical problems, one on the 'history' of science, and others with a medical bias.



The first lecture, on 16 October 2017, was given by Professor Robert Young, FRS, FREng who added the subtitle “When Science Meets Politics” to his original title 'Engineering with Graphene'. His talk illustrated the interplay between scientific discoveries, their application, and the desire of politicians to be seen to be “picking winners” in technology. Professor Young also described The National Graphene Institute, a collaborative graphene research facility of the University of Manchester, with £65m UK Government and EU funding, which was announced in 2011, with the remit of applying the material in engineering and technology. He expected key applications would be found in electronics and printed circuits, energy storage, biomedical devices, membranes and barriers, and composites and coatings, on which the speaker’s own research focussed. Incorporation of graphene can make plastic/epoxy electrically conducting, allowing composite materials to be used in aircraft components (lightning strikes), and electrical de-icing systems.

The next talk ‘Insect Control – ideas from the unexpected’ on 1 November 2017 was by Ian Whelan, who started his own company to promote Hedrin, the first silicone-based product against lice. This was based on an idea by a Guildford housewife, a physical insecticide acting against head lice, especially in children. It essentially leaves the insect in a shroud of the involatile silicone, and the lice suffocate, and dehydrate, or – if they need to lose water – burst. Previous insecticides had been based on killing the insect, and these proved to be persistent environmental pollutants. 

Whelan demonstrated that someone with an inquisitive mind and training in the 'university of life' can make a significant contribution in some of the intractable problems encountered in everyday life. He explained how he has been awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to establish collaborations with various Greek scientists to explore the ethnobotany of the region, especially for insect control materials.

© David Hunter, 2017

On 4 December 2017 Mr Alan Segrott, the Bridge Project Engineer for the Mersey Gateway right up to the completion and opening of the crossing in October 2017, gave a timely lecture on this new crossing of the River Mersey.

The Mersey Gateway bridge is based on the cable stay design and has become necessary to relieve congestion on the existing Millennium suspension bridge over the Mersey at Runcorn; to promote local economic development, and provide a landmark that fits the environment. The project embraced a 1 km long cable-stayed bridge with approximately 8 km of new and upgraded highways. Mr Segrott made excellent use of photography, CGI, and time-lapsed video to show how the work progressed. The use of modularisation throughout the construction meant that the pouring of concrete could progress rapidly, as the moulds were moved along the project. 

On 12 February 2018 the subject returned to the life sciences with Professor Kevin Ryan, FRSE presenting a lecture entitled 'Cell Death in life - good and bad!'. The best-understood form of cell death is apoptosis which is usually a benign programmed event in which the dead cell is engulfed and digested by others. In addition to apoptosis, cells can die by two other mechanisms: autophagy, and necr(opt)osis. In contrast, autophagy (Greek, “self-eating”) allows for the orderly degradation and recycling of cell components. In disease, autophagy is an adaptive response to stress, which promotes survival, whereas in other cases it appears to promote cell death and morbidity. Work in the speaker’s own laboratory identified the genes turned on by the cell-death-inducing protein p53.

In normal animal tissue cells grow where and when they should, individual cells receiving both positive growth signals leading to proliferation and survival, and negative growth signals leading to differentiation or death. The balance is lost in cancerous tissue, in which negative signals suppressed, leaving a balance of positive signals. Targeting anti-cancer drugs to cell death works: the p53 family of proteins are strong promoters of apoptosis, and as the title of the lecture suggested cell death can be both good and bad - the challenge is to use it in the most beneficial way.

Professor Kenneth Letherman began his talk 'The Life and Work of James Clerk Maxwell', on 5 March 2018, by pointing out that although James Clerk Maxwell is a hero to many physicists he was not more widely recognised and celebrated until recently. During his short lifetime from 1831 to 1879 he made significant contributions to many fields including electromagnetism, molecular theory of gases, optics, astronomy, bridge structures, dimensional analysis and the principles of steam engine governors.

Professor Letherman took the audience through Maxwell's academic life and its successes, culminating in 1871 when Maxwell was appointed the first holder of an endowed chair in Experimental Physics in the University of Cambridge. This endowment culminated in the world famous Cavendish Laboratories. Maxwell died in November 1879, aged only 48 - the world lost a true scientific polymath.

The final talk of the year on 3 May 2018 was given by Professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly FRS entitled ‘Why do we get fat and why does it make us ill?’. If energy intake in food exceeds that consumed by metabolic processes and physical exertion then it has to be stored. In practice this is achieved by laying down fat or adipose tissue: a particularly efficient form of storage. Prof. O’Rahilly preferred to talk of adiposity rather than obesity, because the latter carries potentially pejorative overtones. Adiposity is increasing in developed and many second world countries at an alarming rate and clearly this has to have an environmental and cultural basis.

Having discussed the causes of excess adiposity, O'Rahilly then pointed out that being overweight has adverse mechanical consequences contributing to osteoarthritis of the hips and knees, gastro-oesophageal acid reflux and sleep apnoea. It is also associated with a variety of common cancers, and at the metabolic level increased weight is associated with insulin resistance, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, atherogenic cardiovascular disease and fatty liver.

At the simplest level to avoid obesity and its consequences we need to avoid positive energy balance and weight gain. Restricting energy intake however is not easy particularly for those who have the misfortune to have inherited a major single gene mutation, (e.g. leptin deficient children), or alternatively, and more commonly, several genetic polymorphisms which predispose to increased appetite. While specific treatment is available for leptin deficiency no specific treatments are yet available for most genetic defects. Some drugs used in the treatment of diabetes do promote significant weight loss but most have not stood the test of time because of adverse effects. He concluded that for the time-being we are largely reliant on lifestyle measures supported by public health programmes to induce cultural change.