As thc Edinburgh Scicncc chtiyal rcachcs thc ripc old agc ofthrcc. Alan Morrison puts Scottish scicncc undcr thc microscopc.
()ycr thrcc-quartcrs olthc population of Scotland is unablc to namc a liying scicntist. according to a surycy commissioncd by thc lidinburgh Scicncc l’cstiyal. ln tact. dcspitc scliooldays spctit rcyclling in lltc glorics oi Scotland‘s inycntors ol' tlic past. many would hayc troublc naming any scicntist at all. It is probably truc that thc inhabitants ol' lidinburgh. thc birthplacc ot'world-famous l‘)th ccntury physicist .lamcs (‘lcrk Mtichll. would rccognisc thc namc only as that ota largc and particularly ugly building on thc l'niycrsity‘s scicncc catnpus.
llowic l-‘irth. l'ormcr dircctor of thc Scicncc chtiyal agrccs. ‘It you stoppcd a hundrcd pcoplc on l’rinccs Strcct today.’ hc says. ‘and askcd thcm who Machll was. thcy would tcll you lic’s a publishcr.‘
It is to bc hopcd that by thc cnd of thc licstiyal. yisitors will know thcir clcctromagnctic radiation lrom thcir Dar/y Rt’t‘on/ attcr spcnding a packcd l‘ortnight wandcring through a rangc ol lccturcs.
cxhibitions and talks that capturcs thc diycrsity ol
scicncc. both in tlic modcrn world and in history.
"l‘hat blcnd olthc past. thc prcscnt and thc tuturc is ycry important .‘ says l’irth. ‘bccausc thc past can giyc a basc and show you what can bc achicycd. Scotland was a worldbcatcr at thc timc of thc linlightcnmcnt and thc Industrial Rcyolution. but I wondcr to what cxtcnt Scotland is in that position in world tcrms today. Nowadays thc compctition is grcatcr. cycn l’rom countrics that at lirst sight you wouldn‘t c\'pcct to bc lcadcrs. (\itlttlt‘ic's likc Korca hayc an cnormous national dcyotion to scicncc and lcarning. 'l'hcir national aim is to win a Nobcl Him 7 just likc winning thc World ('up is a national goal lor Scotland.‘
Rcccnt adyanccs in thc 'l'hird \Vorld mcan that Korca is morc likcly to do both bctorc Scotland is rcady lor tbc kick-oil. 'l'liat is unlcss thc Scicncc l'cstiy al is ablc to rccapturc thc dynamic atmosphcrc ol thc past by bringing togcthcr
70 'l'hc list 22 March 4 April 1991
l‘crtilc minds - and lcrtilc pockcts.
‘I think thc licstiyal should bc a show—casc for Scottish scicncc.‘ says lt’irth. ‘lt not only hclps thc public to apprcciatc what is bcing donc. it highlights thc arcas ot‘ rcscarcli that arc going on and thosc that could bc opcncd tip. ()nc ofthc rcasons lor thc succcss otthc linlightcnmcnt is that it was a timc whcn thc practical pcoplc and thc thcorctical pcoplc wcrc closc togcthcr. A lot ol thc grcats actually dcsigncd practical machincry and cquipmcnt as wcll as coming up with thcorctical idcas.’
’I‘hcsc includc industrial pcoplc. likc Jamcs Watt and his stcam cnginc. 'l'homas 'l‘clt'ord and his bridgcs and canals; scicntil‘ic pcoplc. likc l.ord Kclyin. clcctricity pionccr. and John Napicr. inycntor ol logarithms and thc dccimal point; philosophcrs trom l)ayid llumc and 'l‘homas (‘arlylc down through thc ccnturics to Rab (K Ncsbitt. Scots across thc country should know that. whilc thcy may praisc llclcnsburgh‘s .lohn logic Baird tor inycnting thc tclcyision. tlicy might bc cursing lidinburgh‘s Alcxandcr (iraham licll tor inycnting thc tclcphonc that disturbs thcm during Twin Peaks.
With national sons that includc Sir Jamcs Simpson and Sir Alcxandcr Hcming. whosc rcspcctiyc uscs ot‘chlorot'orm and pcnicillin rcyoltltionisul mcdicinc. it sccms fitting that thc thcmc ol this ycar‘s licstiyal is The Human Body. I say ‘thcmc‘ in a cautious tonc bccausc Brian (iamblc. chictcxccutiyc ot’this ycar‘s l-‘cstiyal. strcsscs that it should not dominatc thc
Scottish science (clockwise lrom top left): John Logie Baird. Alexander Graham Bell. James Clerk Maxwell. andBrian Gamble. chiel executive olthe International Science Festival.
"l'hc thcmc is a starting point. an idca that wc work on and thcn scc it gathcr arms and lcgs.‘ lic says. ‘My pcrsonal priority is to cncouragc morc young pcoplc to considcr taking scicncc at collcgc and uniycrsity . othcrw isc w c‘ll bcconic a nation who can w ritc about. draw or dcscribc camcras. computcrs and motor cars. but w c won't bc ablc to makc tltc buggcrs ‘
(iamblc's attitudc to thc scicncc cstablislimcnt may at timcs bc lcss than rcy crcnt. but his cnthusiasm about tlic l5cstiy al and its potcntial is inlcctious. ‘Scicncc is not all about lcllows in whitc coats. with long hair. crcating monstcrs.‘ hc says. ‘scicncc is rclcyant to what is going on today. 'l‘hc lamous scictitist is not ncccssarily tlic onc l'd inyitc hcrc. bccausc in many cascs thc lamous scicntist who is tcrribly clcycr and has discoycrcd somcthing awtully important is tlic pcrson who is lcast ablc to dcscribc it. I hay c this thcory that a lot ol rcscarcli gr ints arc cut bccaiisc thc pcoplc who arc giy ing out thc moncy don’t know what thc licll it is that's bcing rcscarchcd in thc lirst placc.
‘( )nc oli Ilic rcasolls tlict‘c is a Scicticc l'icstiy al is that thc scictitists arc bloody aw lul communicattirs. .‘ylaybc il thcy could tcll thc mc's
olthis world what thcy"rc doing. wc wouldn‘t nccd to hayc a Scicncc l’cstiy al at all.‘ 'l'lzt’ Izilinlim'g/i Inti'rrmrro/m/ Si («not l'i'ytii u/ rtmslfom .llim/ Sun /J .-l/H'1/. ll! ii‘li' l'll'l/l (1\A\ How (iooi/ /\ Scouts/1 .St'n'rn'i'f’ alt/1c .llt'i'tmg
Home, littoral .Stl'i'i’t on Hmrs 5 .‘l/)/'//11[.3/UH,