The British Science Association, which showcases the best of British science, was delighted to bring the British Science Festival to Hull and the Humber in 2018, from 11 – 14 September, hosted by the University of Hull. The four-day event is one of Europe’s longest-established science festivals, which each year travels to a new part of the UK, bringing a vast array of events, performances and exhibitions with a scientific twist.
Working in partnership with the University of Hull and other organisations in the Humber region, the British Science Festival was a flagship event as part of Hull’s City of Culture legacy focusing on three key areas – energy and the environment; health and the medical sciences; and exploration, movement and discovery.
The history of the Festival
The British Science Festival is the longest-standing science Festival in the UK. Organised by the British Science Association, it grew out of the tradition of the annual meetings of the Association – first held in York in 1831, and annually at cities across the UK, and further afield, ever since – bringing scientists together to discuss their ground-breaking work with one another, across scientific disciplines, and, crucially, with the general public.
It was at these annual meetings that that major scientific advances were announced: Joule’s experiments on the mechanical equivalent of heat in the 1840s; Bessemer’s steel process (1856); the discovery of the first of the inert gases, Argon, by Rayleigh and Ramsay (1894); the first public demonstration of wireless transmission over a few hundred yards by Sir Oliver Lodge (1894); and J.J. Thomson’s discovery of the electron (1899). It was at these meetings that the term ‘scientist’ was coined, and the ‘dinosaur’ named.
The annual meetings were designed to engender discussion and debate. Perhaps the best remembered of all was at Oxford in 1860: Darwin’s ‘The Origin of Species’ had been published in 1859, but his health was not good enough to allow him to go to the Oxford meeting. Darwin’s ‘bulldog’, T.H. Huxley, was there, though, and brilliantly debated Darwinism with Samuel Wilberforce, Lord Bishop of Oxford who was Vice President of the Association at the time.
The British Science Festival has inspired the growth of countless other science festivals – from large and established ones (Cheltenham, Edinburgh and Manchester) to smaller and newer events (Aberdeen, Brighton and Winchester).
To see the Festival evaluations and programmes from 2005 to present please click here.
This PDF also shows you all the Festival locations since 1831.
The British Science Association’s Scientific Sections play a crucial role in both developing content for the Festival programme and advising on the latest developments within their fields. The British Science Association has 17 Scientific Sections, encompassing all aspects of physical and social sciences.