Jonathan Aylen

Jonathan Aylen, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester

Thursday 30th October 2014, 6.45 for 7.00 pm
Robert Recorde Room, Faraday Building

Ribbon of Fire: how US strip mill technology came to Wales

The American continuous wide strip mill halved the cost of steel sheets after 1926.  This large scale technology was rapidly adopted in the USA to supply a growing market for autobodies, canstock and consumer goods. 

After much controversy, Welsh steelmakers built these new mills in the 1930’s under pressure from customers and American technical partners. Once Richard Thomas had bought their Ebbw Vale mill in 1936, Summers at Shotton were tipped into ordering their wide hot strip mill from a rival American supplier.

The lecture is based on US and European archive sources considers the personalities, the technical choices, the construction and the impact of these radical schemes on Wales. Marshall Aid funded a third strip mill at Port Talbot after the war, but a fourth private sector mill at Cardiff was abandoned once Llanwern got under way.  The paper ends with a reminder of the fiftieth anniversary of direct computer control of the Llanwern wide hot strip mill in 1964.


Jonathan Aylen is a joint editor and author of Ribbon of Fire: How Europe adopted and developed US strip mill technology (1920-2000) published by Pendragon in Bologna in 2012. He has done extensive research on the origins of the wide hot strip mill in the USA.  Jonathan is Chair of the North-West Branch of the Newcomen Society based in Manchester.

Professor Iwan Morus

Professor Iwan Morus (Aberystwyth)

Friday 13 June 2014, 3.00pm
Robert Recorde Room, Faraday Building

Inside the Spark: Grove, the Induction Coil and Victorian Experimental Culture

For much of the 1840s and 1850s, William Robert Grove's electrical experiments revolved around minute examinations of the electric spark. By the 1850s these experiments had led him to spectacular demonstrations of discharge phenomena that could be generated using the powerful new induction coil designed by the Parisian instrument-maker Heinrich Ruhmkorff. Grove's experiments were further developed by his colleague and rival John Peter Gassiot in a series of experiments that led, amongst other things, to the iconic demonstration known as the Gassiot cascade. In this paper I want to raise some questions about what a closer look at these experiments, and the experimental tradition they exemplifed, might tell us about the roots of Victorian physics.

Iwan Morus is a distinguished historian of science and technology who has written widely on Victorian Science and especially on Electricity, including Shocking Bodies (History Press, 2011), When Physics became King (Chicago, 2005), Michael Faraday and the Electrical Century (Icon Books, 2004) and Frankenstein's Children (Princeton, 1998).

Paul Frame

Paul Frame, Richard Price Society

Friday 23 May 2014, 3.00 pm
Robert Recorde Room, Faraday Building 

Science and Revolution: Richard Price (1723-91) Welsh Radical and Scientist

A brief look, but with the emphasis on science, at the life and times of Richard Price a prominent eighteenth century dissenter, political and social reformer, founder of life assurance through his work on publishing Bayes's Theorem on probability, and a supporter of the American revolution and the opening events of that in France. If time permits the talk will also look briefly at the scientific and political lives of his Bridgend nephews William Morgan (winner of the Royal Society Copley Medal, producer of plasmas) and George Cadogan Morgan (writer on electricity and radical republican at a dangerous time).

Tracey E Rihll

Tracey E Rihll (History and Classics, Swansea)

Friday 25 October 2013
3.00 Robert Recorde Room, Faraday Building.

Mechanization in ancient Greece and Rome: knowledge, skills and artefacts

It is not commonly known that machines powered by human or animal muscle, by water, by air, by steam, and by falling weights were employed in Greek and Roman agriculture, quarries and mines, manufacturing establishments, service businesses and homes, either to make tasks easier to perform or allow them to be performed at all, as well as to entertain. Knowledge about such machines was formed and disseminated in writing. Known books on machinery were written by a dozen individuals, including Arkhimedes, Arkhutas, and Philon of Byzantion.

Machines for moving and lifting loads took priority over machines for war and entertainment in Philon’s Mechanical Compendium of ca 200 BCE. About AD 60 Heron chose not to describe “many kinds of presses that have been in use in great numbers for a long time among the common people” because they were less effective than the lever and screw presses that he did discuss and analyze (Mechanics 3.20); clearly there was more variety on the ground than is recorded in his work, as we should expect of any technology. His rhetoric may be misleading, but effectiveness was his declared priority, which refutes another common modern presumption that ancient authors on mechanics attended to the theoretically most complicated or novel devices. Artefacts survive of devices not mentioned in surviving texts.

Dr Serafina Cuomo

Dr Serafina Cuomo (Birkbeck College, London)

Numeracy in ancient Greece and Rome - questions and problems

3.00 Friday 17 May 2013
Robert Recorde Room, Faraday Building

How did people in ancient Greece and Rome count, calculate and measure? What procedures and instruments did they use? And how can we reconstruct the wider significance of numeracy in those societies? The talk, based on research in progress, will address some of these questions, and focus in particular on issues of methodology and evidence.
For further information, contact Professor John Tucker –

Professor Niels Jacob

Alfred Russell Wallace dcwStations of His Life and Highlights of His Scientific Achievements

Being a scientist in the British Empire during Darwin's time meant essentially being a "gentleman scientist", i.e. a person living from his (or his wife's) wealth a private life in public, not depending on a position, say at a university (and in England there were only two universities in these days).

Alfred Russell Wallace (1823 - 1914) was no gentleman scientist but a surveyor born in a cottage on the banks of the river Usk, Monmouthshire, Wales. He earned his means for travelling and research by collecting trophies, mainly birds, for collectors, i.e. gentlemen. As a naturalist, observer and collector he surpassed most of his contemporaries. His books "The Geographical Distribution of Animals" and "Island Life" laid the foundations of geo-zoology, or in the words of E.O.Wilson he transformed the subject into a science. The Wallace - Line is a further witness of his achievements as a geo-biologist. Nowadays however, Wallace is best remembered as the co-discoverer of natural selection as a mechanism of evolution.

There is another side to his personality, his sometimes surprising and strange thoughts about society which we can only understand as a product of the late Victorian era.

The talk is an invitation to a journey with a travelling naturalist through his life and times. It starts a series of events organized by the College of Science to pay tribute to the man who gave his name to our main building and who died 100 years ago.

5.15pm to 6.30pm Friday 26th April 2013, Wallace Lecture Theatre, Wallace Building

All welcome.

For further information, please contact Alison Caughlin,

Past Events 2011-2012

Professor Martin Campbell-Kelly FLSW (Warwick University)
Alan Turing’s Other Universal Machine: The ACE
5pm Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Faraday Lecture Theatre, Faraday Building

Professor John V Tucker (Swansea University)
What can we compute? A history of the Church-Turing Hypothesis
3.00 Friday, 30 November 2012
Robert Recorde Room, Faraday Building

Professor E Brian Davies, FRS, FLSW (King's College, London)
Newton's concept of induction
3.00 Friday, 17 February 2012
Robert Recorde Room, Faraday Building

Dr Adam Mosley (Swansea)
1577 and all that: early modern comets and their histories revisited
3.00 Friday, 16 March 2012
Robert Recorde Room, Faraday Building

Professor Nicolas Bouleau (Ecole des Ponts et desChaussees),
What are the 'philosophical probabilities' of Cournot?
3.00 Friday, 2 November 2012
Robert Recorde Room, Faraday Building

Professor Niels Jacob (Swansea, Mathematics)
Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier – Citoyen
3.00 Friday, 25 November 2011
Mathematics Seminar Room, Talbot Building 224

Related Swansea Events

Professor Brian Randell FLSW (Newcastle)
Forty years of software engineering
6:30 Tuesday, 1 November 2011, Faraday Lecture Theatre
Series: Computer Science Distinguished Lecture, Learned Society of Wales, and British Computer Society

Sir John Meurig Thomas FRS FLSW (Cambridge),
William Grove: Wales’ most famous scientist?
6:30 Friday, 2 December 2011, Grove Lecture Theatre
Series: Learned Society of Wales and Royal Society of Chemistry

John V Tucker
Sir William Grove and Friends
2 November 2013
2.00 Central Library, Swansea