Celebrate Wales' History of Scientific Achievement; Wales Should Celebrate Its History of Science and Technology Innovation, Says Professor John V Tucker of the Learned Society of Wales

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 20, 2017 | Go to article overview

Celebrate Wales' History of Scientific Achievement; Wales Should Celebrate Its History of Science and Technology Innovation, Says Professor John V Tucker of the Learned Society of Wales


THE census returns of 1851 reveal that in Wales more people were working in industry than in agriculture. With this observation we can claim that Wales is the world's first industrial nation.

What was Welsh industry? In south Wales, we think of the manufacturing of metals and by-products in the Swansea and Merthyr regions, and the production of coal in the Valleys.

But there is so much more: the civil engineering of transport networks of ports, canals, and railways, and the technical development of professional services in finance, education and utilities.

Industry was an outstanding enterprise whose science and technology were creating a new technically complex Wales.

Generally, Wales and its people have played a substantial role in the growth of scientific and technological knowledge. But how much is known about this history and heritage? Where can one find this out? Knowledge of Wales' heritage in science, technology, engineering and medicine is poor, despite lone attempts to raise awareness.

The late Professor Phil Williams, physicist and politician, spoke many times on the neglected scientists of Wales. Steve Jones created a booklet of Welsh Achievements for the Welsh Development Agency. Inspired by the posters of the writers of Wales he saw in classrooms, Neville Evans created two sets of posters, decades apart, of contemporary Welsh Scientists and sent them to every school in Wales.

Welsh scientific achievements accumulate. For example, Swansea and Cardiff physicists played leading roles in a trinity of extraordinary discoveries in our time: the creation of molecular antimatter, and the discoveries of the Higgs boson and gravitational waves.

At the founding of the Learned Society of Wales in May 2010, a programme on our scientific history and heritage was established. Its aim was to promote research and build a scholarly community.

The society has sponsored lectures and conferences, helped to develop and fund the new Scientists of Wales book series, published by University Wales Press, and supported the e-forum Myrddin to bring people together and share information.

The series has published fulllength biographies of Robert Recorde and William Robert Grove, and the latest volume on the particle physicist Evan James Williams will be launched at the Eisteddfod in August.

The editors of the series have a list of more than 50 Welsh scientists in need of biographies.

The society has also commemorated some important names with medals for high achievers: we have three medals named for the Dillwyns of Swansea, a medal and lecture named for William Menelaus of Dowlais, and a medal for Frances Hoggan.

These initiatives have been made possible by the sponsorship of Airbus, the South Wales Institute of Engineers Educational Trust, and the Welsh Government, respectively. …

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