Leading professor returns to mother's school to deliver science lecture

Posted on 07th June 2018

Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, delivered the annual Science Eckersley lecture to a packed Bedales Theatre of students, staff, parents and local community on 17 May.

Roger Penrose is known for his work in mathematical physics, and in particular his contributions to general relativity and cosmology. He has received several prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking for their work on singularities, such as black holes, proving that they can arise from the gravitational collapse of massive, dying stars.

Professor Penrose enthralled his audience on a wide range of scientific topics that included discussion of consciousness, life, infinity, quantum mechanics, general relativity, Schrödinger's cat, gravity, microtubules and Penrose tiling.

Bedales Head of Sciences, Emily Seeber, commented:

“It is not often that one plays host to a thinker who has radically changed the intellectual landscape in their field, but, in hosting Sir Roger Penrose, we had the opportunity to hear about how he has challenged thinking in mathematics, physics, philosophy and beyond. He was extraordinarily moved by the places his mother would have lived and studied, long before he was born – she attended Bedales 100 years ago and was head girl in 1919 so it was fitting that he should return as the school celebrates its 125thanniversary.”

Sixth form student Thea Sesti added: “We were mesmerised by Professor Penrose’s character and he spoke with such freshness and affectionate enthusiasm. It was an incredible opportunity to meet such an inspiring man, so passionate and yet so calm, and to gain understanding first hand of his long-lasting and stimulating ideas”.

The Eckersley Lecture is named after brothers and former Bedales students, Peter and Thomas Eckersley. Peter Eckersley was the former chief engineer at the BBC and his brother Thomas was a theoretical research engineer; they both attended Bedales during the early 1900s. Professor Sir Lawrence Bragg gave the first Eckersley Lecture at Bedales in 1966. The lecture series, which is supported by the school’s alumni body The Bedales Association, boasts two Nobel Prize winners and 11 Knights and Dames amongst its speakers and is a highlight in the school’s Science programme.

A video of the 2018 Eckersley Lecture is available at https://vimeo.com/bedalesschool.

2018 Eckersley Lecture video| Professor Roger Penrose biography| Penrose tiling