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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


Week 1: 18-22 January

Reformations to Deformations: is the modern era begun by the printing press being brought to a close by the internet?: Dr Calum Nicholson 
Panel Tutor for the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education

An overexposed photograph is as bad as an underexposed one - neither lead to a clear picture. In 15th-century Europe, the invention of the printing press was crucial in enlightening an underexposed world: it led to the Reformations in the early 16th century, and the beginning of the modern era that pivoted on the Enlightenment. Five hundred years later, we are seeing how  new inventions – the internet, and social media in particular – are bringing us an overexposed world. In this talk, Calum Nicholson argues that this is leading to an era of cultural Deformations, which may perhaps herald the end of the modern era.

Life after Gravity: Newton’s London career:​ Dr Patricia Fara
Emeritus Fellow, Clare College

For the last thirty years of his life, Isaac Newton lived in London and ran the Royal Mint as well as the Royal Society. Formerly a reclusive scholar at Cambridge, now he moved in aristocratic circles, exerted political influence and became very rich. Through exploring a painting by William Hogarth that is packed with Newtonian references, Dr Patricia Fara describes aspects of Newton’s life and fame that usually receive little attention. Taking the picture as her cue, she reintegrates him into a metropolitan world where men and women benefited from global trading based on slavery.

How different were the Spartans from other Ancient Greeks?Professor Paul Cartledge
A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge; Fellow, Clare College

For many centuries ancient Sparta was one of the most powerful cities of the ancient Greek world, playing a major role in international as well as domestic Greek affairs. What were the sources of this exceptional power? Other Greeks clearly thought it was something to do with the peculiar – different, even possibly unique – nature of Spartan society. This talk's main aim will be to uncover and try to account for this peculiarity.

Bruegel in winter: the Census at Bethlehem in detail: Dr Sophie Oosterwijk
Honorary Research Fellow, School of Art History, University of St Andrews

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (d. 1569) did not just create droll peasant scenes; he was also a religious painter and a pioneer in landscape painting. All three aspects are evident in his Census at Bethlehem of 1566, a winter scene that will reveal many astonishing details upon close observation.

Are physicists really superheroes? Have you got what it takes to solve a problem? Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright
Co-director of Isaac Physics, Astrophysicist and Educational Outreach Officer at Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge

What is it about physics that attracts so few but repels so many? Physics enables everyone to solve problems every day but a common reaction to Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright’s introduction “I’m a physicist” is “wow – really?”. The subject, its image and its practitioners are often prejudged and misrepresented. A 2020 study has highlighted the preconceptions of students, teachers and parents about physics ( What is it that prevents students from considering physics in their future? In this talk Dr Jardine-Wright will ask you to reflect on your own perceptions of physics and challenge you to change the face of the future of physics.

The raw material of history: an introduction to the Churchill Archives Centre: Allen Packwood
Director of the Churchill Archives Centre; Fellow of Churchill College

Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Centre, takes you behind the scenes and introduces you to a selection of documents from the Centre’s collections. A rare chance to see inside the Churchill despatch box and the Margaret Thatcher handbag, plus lots more besides.

Pandemic politics: Sir Tony Brenton
Former British Ambassador to Russia

Pandemics, from Ancient Greece on, have brought profound political consequences - the fall of the Aztec and Inca Empires, the end of feudalism in Europe, the rise of Islam. Coronavirus, coming at a time when the post Cold War international order already feels shaky, will be no exception. It has already added significantly to US/China tensions and boosted authoritarianism world wide. We look at the precedents and the likely long term political impacts of the virus.

A blueprint for a green future: Dr Emily Schuckburgh
Director of Cambridge Zero

Today we sit at a pivotal moment. As we look to how the world can emerge from the coronavirus pandemic stronger and more resilient, we must face head-on the threats posed by growing social inequality, the destruction of nature and climate change. Dr Emily Scuckburgh will discuss the benefits and opportunities of pursing a green recovery that sets us on a path to fairer, zero-carbon future that is in greater harmony with the world that sustains us.

The Edwardians and architectural truth: Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin
Course Leader, MSt Architecture Apprenticeship, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge

The long Edwardian era produced some of the highest quality – and most influential – houses in British architectural history. In Cambridge itself there are fine examples, including some of the best work by the architect MH Baillie Scott. But the famous houses by Arts and Crafts architects are not representative of the great mass of Edwardian building that can be found in every town in England. Many houses mixed old features with new ones to create a style specific to the period, in buildings which demonstrate a very different attitude to the past than the one we know about today.

The unruly infected: plague in 17th-century Cambridge: Dr Sam Williams   
Academic Director and University Senior Lecturer in Local and Regional History, University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education; Bye-Fellow and Director of Studies in History, Girton College

How did our ancestors cope with previous pandemics? This talk considers how contemporaries responded to waves of bubonic plague in Cambridge in the 17th century. There were aspects that we would recognise today, such as social distancing from the infected, mask wearing, cleanliness, and the restriction of the movement of people. However, there were other belief and behaviours that would be less familiar to us: a belief in miasma (bad air) and that unruliness, disorder and even bad thoughts could cause plague. Just as Covid-19 has been extremely expensive, so was plague. This talk will explore all these features of epidemic disease.

Hopes and fears for Artificial Intelligence: Dr Kanta Dihal 
Director of Studies, Scientific Admissions Tutor and College Lecturer, Homerton College; Internal Examiner, University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education

It seems difficult to be neutral about the prospect of intelligent machines; they provoke us to imaginative extremes. This lecture aims to explain why: the hopes we have for AI require the projection of humanlike qualities onto machines. This makes these imagined creations inherently unpredictable: the qualities they would need in order to fulfil our hopes are those that grant them the autonomy to choose not to fulfil them.

Gender and decolonising in literary writing: Dr Shamira Meghani  
Teaching Associate, Postcolonial and Related Literatures, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge

The legacy of colonialism has often been defended by suggesting that it brought ‘modernity’ to regions that were colonised, whether that be in terms of mechanisation and transport, or in social contexts such as gender relations. Indeed, in some recent strands of theory, modernity itself has been critiqued as inherently colonial. In this talk Dr Shamira Meghani will outline some problems with the temporal axis of tradition vs. modernity for understanding gender and sexuality, and consider ways in which literature written in the context and spirit of decolonising asks quite different questions.

Manufacturing a better world after COVID-19: Professor Tim Minshall
Dr John C Taylor Professor of Innovation, Head of the Centre for Technology Management and Head of the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge; Fellow of Churchill College

Professor Tim Minshall shares an overview of how teams of Cambridge engineers have helped the local, national and international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we can use the lessons learned to support a strong and sustainable recovery.

Can we re-freeze the Arctic?: Dr Hugh Hunt
Reader in Engineering Dynamics and Vibration, University of Cambridge; Fellow, Trinity College

How can we cool the planet if we fail to meet our CO2 emissions targets? Scary stuff – we need to be talking about it! We may want to cool the planet if (when) we fail to meet our CO2 emissions targets. There are 'geoengineering' technologies out there almost ready to go and some sound quite scary. Many pundits question whether it is safe to meddle with the climate when we only have one Earth, but others argue that we haven't much time left before climate change runs away from us. This talk will present technologies which may be urgently required to slow down the progress of Arctic melting. One project, SPICE (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering), proposed a small experiment but the experiment was shut down for fear of "the slippery slope". Research in geoengineering has ground to a halt. But we're short on action on all fronts. If we're too late and the Arctic permafrost warms up then we may need to capture billions of tonnes of atmospheric methane. The scale of the problem is huge, and we're not well prepared.

Christmas in Cambridge - the meaning of a tradition: Dr Seán Lang
Senior Lecturer in History and Politics, Anglia Ruskin University

The Christmas Eve Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College has become an integral part of Christmas in Britain and around the world.  The story behind it, however, encompasses the trenches of the First World War and has echoes of the 17th-century Puritan attempt to ban Christmas altogether. This is a tale of Cambridge Christmas Past, Present – and yet to come.

Creativity and respectability: 19th-century women ballad composers: Dr Chloe Valenti
Supervisor in Music, Robinson College, University of Cambridge

For Victorian women composers, music training and professional opportunities were limited by restrictive gender norms. By the 1860s, however, the surge in demand for music to be played in the home created an opportunity for women composers to be at the forefront of one of the most lucrative music genres of the period: ballad writing. The opportunities and restrictions of the ballad music market will be examined, and how it influenced perceptions of women's creativity and respectability.

Week 2: 25-29 January

Antibiotic resistance and the rise of the superbug: Dr Martin Welch
University Lecturer in Microbiology, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge; Fellow of Murray Edwards College

We've all heard the doom and gloom about antibiotic resistance, 'pharmageddon', and the rise of 'superbugs'. But what lies behind this story, and more importantly, how (if at all) will it affect you? In spite of the lurid newspaper reports, you may be quite surprised.

Voyages into the Wilderness: Mark Catesby’s explorations of fauna and flora in the New World in the 1710s-20s:
Henrietta McBurney Ryan
Freelance Curator, Cambridge Colleges

The talk will describe some of the highlights of the travels of the English collector, naturalist and artist Mark Catesby (1683-1749) who explored Virginia, South Carolina and parts of the Caribbean during the first quarter of the eighteenth century to collect plants and animals for his sponsors in London. It will draw on Catesby's first-hand accounts in his letters and his monumental two-volume publication, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (London, 1731-43), and showcase some of the spectacular watercolours he made of the exotic natural history he found in the New World. 

Holocaust heritage: Dr Gilly Carr
Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education; Fellow of St Catharine’s College

Holocaust heritage can be found across Europe today, and comprises the original sites of concentration and labour camps, ghettos, mass graves, killing sites and the routes of forced marches. And yet, in the 21st century, such sites are at risk of being forgotten. What has happened to these places? What can we still see? What are the threats that they face? What can we do to help safeguard them? Dr Gilly Carr presents her current project, ‘Safeguarding Sites’, funded by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, in this lecture.

Stonehenge and its landscape: new discoveries and perspectives​: Professor David Jacques
Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology, Buckingham University; Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries

Recent results from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site reveal well-preserved plant DNA of Mesolithic date existing in the sediments at Blick Mead and the discovery of a huge shaft circle of late Neolithic date at Durrington Walls, plus intensive lynchet formations in the Middle Bronze Age. New dating from the east of the site now provides us with a chance to assess detailed landscape development for the first time. This lecture will capture all the latest research findings and put them into context.

A new Cold War: Sir Tony Brenton
Former British Ambassador to Russia

The spectacular rise of China, and the very sharp deterioration of its relations with the US over the past few months, have prompted widespread predictions of a 'new Cold War'. There are clear parallels with the 'old' Cold War in the sharply contrasting ideologies of the two sides and growing political and military tensions. But there are differences too - China is much more economically integrated with the West than the USSR ever was. Is the current slide towards confrontation unavoidable, and, if so, where might it lead?

Antarctica - from greenhouse to icehouse​: Professor Dame Jane Francis 
Director, British Antarctic Survey

Although the South Pole is now covered in ice sheets up to 4km thick, fossils of plants and animals preserved in exposed rocks on Antarctica show that millions of years ago the continent was once covered in lush green forests and inhabited by dinosaurs, even though the continent was situated over the South Pole. The climate was warm and temperate due to high levels of CO2 from volcanic activity. As levels of CO2 subsequently decreased ice sheets built up on the continent to form the awesome frozen landscape that we see today. The current rapid rise in anthropogenic CO2 is, however, already affecting the Antarctic icehouse, melting ice shelves and raising global sea levels. The fossils are now providing us with a window into life that we could see again at the South Pole in our future warm world.

Creativity behind barbed wire: Dr Gilly Carr
Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education; Fellow of St Catharine’s College

One thing that all prisoner of war and civilian internment camps in the First and Second World Wars had in common is creativity. The creation of objects and artwork was more than just a way to pass the time; it was about survival. In this lecture, Gilly Carr examines the large assemblage of objects made by Channel Islanders in German civilian internment camps and shows how to interpret these arts and crafts made behind barbed wire.

Why YOU need to understand evolution: Dr Paul Elliott
Director of Studies, Scientific Admissions Tutor and College Lecturer, Homerton College; Internal Examiner, University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education

The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection was jointly conceived by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace over 160 years ago. It remains the most important theory ever devised in Biology, and its consequences impact our lives in a multitude of ways. This lecture will examine the importance of the theory in terms of understanding COVID-19, ensuring global food security, improving healthcare and championing science.

The 'inner world' of Shakespeare's tragic heroes: Dr Fred Parker
Senior Lecturer in English, University of Cambridge; Fellow and Director of Studies in English, Clare College

'Tell my story', begs the dying Hamlet. The tragic hero needs to have their strange, traumatic experience heard by others, witnessed, given a foothold in the external world. Without that, primal emotions of rage, fear, and despair threaten to devastate the world of the mind and of the plays. This talk draws on thinking in psychotherapy, especially by Donald Winnicott, in an attempt to hear better the stories which Othello and King Lear have to tell us.

How can mutant worms teach us about our own embryonic development?: Anna Townley
PhD student, Ahringer Group, Wellcome Trust/Ccancer Reaseach UK Gurdon  Institute, University of Cambridge

One of the The Gurdon Institute’s strengths is that it works with a variety of model organisms in order to understand human development and disease. The Ahringer group works with the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans commonly referred to as C. elegans, which is found in rotting fruit and feeds on bacteria. This talk covers how this 1mm long organism has fuelled some important biological discoveries.

Brexit - where we are at, how did it come to this and the issues remaining: Professor Catherine Barnard
Professor of European Union Law and the Jean Monnet Chair of EU Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge; Fellow and Senior Tutor, Trinity College

This talk will look at the evolving saga that is Brexit. It will consider why there was a decision to vote to leave and the state of play with the negotiations. It will also consider briefly how the UK's relationship with the EU might evolve.

Sherlock Holmes and the British Empire: Dr Seán Lang
Senior Lecturer in History and Politics, Anglia Ruskin University

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective first appeared at the height of Britain’s imperial power, and colonial and American themes appear regularly in Holmes’s cases. How might Holmes’s Empire-conscious readers have understood these stories and how can we use them to get a grasp of how the British saw their Empire and their role within it?

What should we be learning from Covid19, to ensure we can really build back better, and greener?: Craig Bennett
Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, formerly Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth, and Panel Tutor, University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education

In this talk, Craig Bennett will explore some of the lessons we should be learning form the Covid19 pandemic – both why it happened in the first place, and what we need to do to make sure our global society becomes more resilient to future pandemics. What has it taught us about the breakdown in the relationship between people and nature, and what do we need to do to fix it? And what are the whispers of the future that we might now be hearing about how we can live healthier, happier, more sustainable lives?

‘While I got goose bumps, she hooted with laughter' - a film-based approach to understanding variations in cultural models of selfDr Dyutiman Mukhopadhyay
Cognitive Scientist, Fine-Artist, Biologist; Researcher in Experimental Psychology, University College London

Film is an artistic medium which can evoke a wide range of emotional states in the audience. This talk illustrates how emotional response is regulated by intra and/or inter-cultural predisposition of an individual. A novel film-based experimental design is explained which tests models of self using experimental psychology and which could serve as a potential psychiatric tool to assess how individual and cultural differences contribute to emotional and behavioural disorders.

10 forces that might define our future: Andrew Hatcher
Mentor in Residence, Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

In a world that is persistently in a state of change it is hard to determine what the future holds for us all. There are, however, some longer-term trends and forces that may not specifically be impacted by Covid, Brexit or other discrete disruptions. This session will look at 10 of those and start to work out how we can orientate ourselves to understand and harness the opportunities they may present to us all.

Studying the recovery of whales at sub-Antarctic South Georgia: Dr Jennifer Jackson
Whale biologist, British Antarctic Survey; Chair, Southern Hemisphere sub-committee at the International Whaling Commission

The sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia is a UK territory, a hotspot of marine biodiversity and historically an important feeding ground for whales. A century ago, this tiny island was at the epicentre of whaling, with over 170,000 whales killed. By the 1960s, whales were virtually exterminated, and sightings were rare until the 1990s. Since 2018, Dr Jen Jackson and collaborators have conducted annual whale surveys at South Georgia. In this lecture, she will review the legacy of modern whaling, discuss new research techniques for studying whales, and overview the discoveries emerging from this recovering feeding ground. 

Ancient Greek poetry: Dr Charlie Weiss
Senior Language Teaching Officer, Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge; Fellow, Praelector, and Director of Studies in Classics, Clare College

From the biting satire of Archilochus to the heart-breaking love poetry of Sappho to the sweeping strophes of Pindar, written to celebrate Olympic victors: the range of material featured in Ancient Greek lyric poetry is stunning, to say nothing of its aesthetic aspects. In this lecture we will briefly survey this amazing body of work and at the same time get a glimpse of its technical nature and cultural context.