Olympicene Vision Realised
Professor Graham Richards CBE, Emeritus fellow of Brasenose College, has had his vision of a molecular structure with three hexagonal rings above two others realised through a collaborative project between the Royal Society of Chemistry, the University of Warwick and IBM Research. The molecule, which Professor Richards first conceived whilst doodling in a planning meeting, is the smallest possible five-ringed structure - about 100,000 times thinner than a single human hair. It was brought to life using a combination of synthetic chemistry and cutting-edge imaging techniques.
The molecule has been named Olympicene, due to its striking resemblance to the five rings of the Olympic symbol. Professor Richards hopes that, although the molecules may have a commercial application, they will primarily serve to provoke an interest in Chemistry through the link with the Olympics.
As well as coming to Brasenose as an undergraduate, Professor Richards was a Chemistry tutor at the College for over 30 years and chairman of the University's Chemistry Department from 1997-2006. He founded Oxford Molecular, a company which provided software to researchers, and later helped set up Isis Innovation, Oxford's technology transfer company. In 2010 he was listed in the top 100 most important contemporary figures in British science by The Times Newspaper's Eureka magazine and appointed as one of the two Vice-Presidents of the Royal Society of Chemistry. In spring 2011 was elected as a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. He recently published the book 50 Years at Oxford, a personal reflection through a career at the University spanning five decades.
Image produced by IBM Research - Zurich
Ascension Day Festivities 2012
Ascension Day, which fell on the 17th May this year, was marked at Brasenose College with two old traditions.
The Beating of the Bounds ceremony passed through Brasenose during the morning of Ascension Day. The custom, observed in a few parishes across England and Wales has probably been in existence for over a millennium, and originated in the need for church officials to perambulate the boundaries of their parish. The boundaries of the parishes of the churches of St. Michael at the Northgate and St. Mary the Virgin (also known as the ‘University Church') pass through Brasenose College and on Ascension Day groups from both parishes visit and mark the boundary stones located on certain walls of college buildings by marking them with the year in chalk and beating them with willow sticks!
Secondly, at lunch time on Ascension Day each year, Brasenose College members are permitted to enter Lincoln College via a tiny connecting door between the two colleges, which leads from Brasenose's Old Quad directly into the Lincoln College kitchens. The door is opened for five minutes and it is the only time during the year that this door is unlocked. Brasenose members are served an ale in Lincoln College, which is traditionally flavoured with ground ivy, handpicked by the Lincoln College butler in local woods, to discourage Brasenose members from taking liberties with the kind hospitality by requesting more than one drink.
Brasenose wins Rugby Sevens
Brasenose College became Oxford University Rugby Sevens champions after winning a tournament held at the University sports grounds on the 5th of May.
The tournament, which took place in a single day, involved 24 college teams, with one team from each of eight pools progressing to the knock-out stages. After winning their pool, Brasenose saw off New College 26-5 in their quarter final, before facing St Hilda's College in the semi-final. St Hilda's had looked dangerous in the preliminary rounds, and Brasenose won through in a tight game 19-12. The final, against Pembroke College, proved to be a more one-sided affair, with Ben Claxton (2nd year Physics) scoring two tries, and Ed Bonnell (2nd year History) and Hee-Won Cho (3rd year Maths) scoring a try each. Brasenose eventually won 26-7.
The captain of the team, Jack Barber (2nd Year Biochemistry) commented: "Once again the team played with great skill and flair, resulting in an unbeatable outfit that went on to become Sevens champions. This is a title befitting the core of committed players that have turned up week in, week out, and one that I have been proud to lead"
The Brasenose College Sevens team find themselves champions for the second time in three years.
Read more about the academic and social opportunities at Brasenose.
Tanner Lectures 2012
This year's Tanner Lectures on Human Values, entitled ‘The Public Responsibilities of the Economist', took place on Friday 18May and Saturday 19 May in the Nelson Mandela Lecture Theatre at the Said Business School. The lectures were given by Dr Diane Coyle OBE, Visiting Professor at the Institute for Political and Economic Governance, University of Manchester.
Dr Coyle studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Brasenose College, before going on to complete a doctorate at Harvard University. As well as her visiting professorship at the University of Manchester, she runs the consultancy Enlightenment Economics, is Vice-Chair of the BBC Trust and was for eight years a member of the Competition Commission. She specialises in competition analysis and the economics of new technologies and globalisation, including extensive work on the impacts of mobile telephony in developing countries. She is the author of several books, including The Economics of Enough, The Soulful Science, Sex, Drugs and Economics, Paradoxes of Prosperity, Governing the World Economy and The Weightless World. She has also published numerous book chapters, reports and articles, and was formerly a regular presenter on BBC Radio 4's Analysis.
Her first lecture was at 5pm on 18 May. The second lecture was at 11am on 19 May, followed by a discussion with a distinguished panel from 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm.
The text of the lectures can be accessed here.
These public lectures are open to all. Find out more on the Tanner Lectures and the Tanner Foundation.
Read more about PPE at Brasenose College.
The Buddhas of Bamiyan
Dr Llewelyn Morgan, Classics Fellow at Brasenose College, has published The Buddhas of Bamiyan, a book about the two massive statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, carved in the sixth and seventh centuries but destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
The book, published by Profile under the Wonders of the World series, tells the story of the monuments over the fourteen centuries of their existence, from their creation to their destruction. It tells of the intense interest the statues provoked from Islamic cultures, European adventurers and contemporary Buddhist observers. The book also delves into the rich history of the fertile and beautiful province of Bamiyan, which occupied a pivotal position at the nexus of trade routes across the Hindu Kush.
In this personal account, Dr Morgan provides an accessible history of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the Bamiyan region and its Hazara inhabitants, as well as the various protagonists from other faiths and cultures over the centuries. The book is also a contemporary account, pondering on what the future might hold for the people of Bamiyan and Afghanistan itself.
Dr Morgan's interest in Afghanistan was sparked when he discovered an old Russian samovar, a kind of kettle, in his grandmother's attic. The object was a mystery, but a quick polish revealed an inscription that had remained secret for many years; "Candahar 1881". He has visited Afghanistan several times and has written historical and contemporary pieces on the country. Most recently, he debated on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme with Ben Macintyre, columnist and associate editor of The Times, whether the Bamiyan statues should be repaired before the US and UK forces withdraw from Afghanistan. This can be listened to here for a limited time.
Dr Morgan teaches most literature courses offered in Classics and related subjects, in both Latin and Greek. Read more about Classics at Brasenose.
Brasenose Arts Festival 2012
The annual Brasenose Arts Festival begins on Sunday 6th May. The festival features six days of open-air plays, music concerts, workshops, poetry readings and exhibitions as well as an outdoor summer bar, all organised by Brasenose students.
Highlights this year include performances of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Doll's House and Blithe Spirit; an Art Exhibition curated by Daniel Udy (Fine Art, Second Year); a Zumba workshop; a showing of the film A Clockwork Orange; a ghost stories performance by R M Lloyd Parry (BNC alumnus); an Open Mic evening of impromptu music and a Brasenose Blues Jam; a comedy sketch show with Tommy Peto (PPE, Second Year) and Tris Puri (Modern Languages, Second Year); a Bake Off, entitled "Much Adough About Muffin"; a Life in the Arts Cream Tea, where former Brasenose students now working in the arts speak about their experiences; and last but not least the Arts Festival Cabaret.
The Brasenose Arts Festival is the second-largest arts week event in Oxford, after the Turl Street Arts Festival. It is the culmination of months of planning and organisation by the Arts Festival Committee, headed by Chris Webb (English, Second Year) and Amy Lewin (English, Second Year).
Brasenose hosts book launch
Dr George Southcombe (pictured), Brasenose lecturer in Early Modern History, hosted a book launch at Brasenose College this week. English Nonconformist Poetry, 1660-1700 is a three volume set, edited by Dr Southcombe and published by Pickering and Chatto.
After the Civil War, religious dissent was fact of life in England and was finally, if incompletely, accepted in the Toleration Act of 1689. Nonconformists, although small in number, produced a volume of printed material which belied their numbers. This body of work was used for an enormous variety of purposes. In this, the first scholarly edition of nonconformist poetry, Dr Southcombe draws together a representative selection of dissenting poetry. It includes poetry by Robert Wild, Thomas Grantham, Katherine Sutton, Benjamin Keach and Martin Mason.
Dr Southcombe provides a general introduction, headnotes, endnotes and textual variants. The volumes are relevant for scholars studying Early Modern Literature and History, Bunyan, Milton, and Religious Studies.
Teach First Graduate Returns
Last term, former English student Chris Kemp returned to Brasenose as a teacher, bringing with him a group of Year 11 students from his school.
Following an undergraduate degree and Masters in English, Chris left Brasenose in 2010 and joined Teach First, an organisation that places graduates as teachers in underperforming schools throughout England. He is currently completing his Newly Qualified Teacher year as an English teacher in Wombwell High School, a comprehensive school in an ex-mining community four miles from Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
The group participated in sessions delivered by Joe Organ (Schools Officer) and Sos Eltis (English Fellow), visited the Natural History and Pitt Rivers museums, had a tour of Brasenose, college lunch, a Q+A with current students and free time to explore Oxford. Chris commented: "Joe Organ and Sos Eltis, our hosts, gave us exactly what we needed: an unpretentious, enthusiastic and realistic introduction to Oxford life. As I had anticipated, the shrunken heads in the Pitt Rivers went down a storm, but having the chance to meet staff and students was a rare and valuable experience for my students; it was perhaps the first time that they had seriously talked about going to Oxford."
Brasenose College supports Teach First, and this year is offering up to five £1000 bursaries for Brasenose Students that join the programme in summer 2012. A number of Brasenose students have gone on to Teach First already, and the College hopes to establish and maintain schools liaison links with other graduates who are completing or have completed this programme.
Read more about Brasenose's Schools Liaison activities.
Dr Ed Bispham appears on BBC TV
Dr Ed Bispham, Fellow in Ancient History, appeared in the second episode of Meeting the Romans on BBC TV on the 24th April.
The programme, one of a series presented by Professor Mary Beard, focuses on the forgotten lives of the ordinary Romans, rather than the Emperors, Generals, Colosseum and Imperial Palaces of the ancient empire. The second episode, entitled Streetlife, takes a vivid look at the slums of ancient Rome. Dr Bispham accompanies Mary Beard into the remains of a brick insula, described as the Roman equivalent of an inner city high-rise apartment block, right in the centre of Rome. They discuss what life would have been like for ordinary Romans in the apartment blocks, ranging from the relatively affluent inhabitants of the spacious first floor, to the squalid upper floors.
Dr Bispham teaches in Ancient History (Greek and Roman) and his research interests lie in the history and archaeology of Italy, where he ran an excavation project for a decade. He has written articles on Roman law, colonization, and inscriptions; he is author of From Asculum to Actium: The Municipalization of Italy from the Social War to Augustus and is the editor of Roman Europe among other books.
Meeting the Romans Episode Two can be viewed on here until early May. Dr Bispham's section appears just over nine minutes into the programme.
Read more about studying Classics, Classical Archaeology and Ancient History and Ancient and Modern History at Brasenose College.
Claire Wickes plays at the Sheldonian
Last term, Brasenose music undergraduate Claire Wickes starred as a soloist at the Hilary Term concert of the Oxford University Philharmonia orchestra.
The concert was held at the Sheldonian Theatre, and featured Brahms' Academic Festival Overture, Nielsen's Flute Concerto (Soloist: Claire Wickes) and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique), conducted by Benjamin Goodson. The evening also including a pre-concert talk by Dr Daniel Grimley, University Lecturer and Fellow of Merton College, who recently published the book Carl Nielsen and the Idea of Modernism.
Claire was the winner of this year's Oxford University Philharmonia concerto competition, which earned her the right to choose a concerto to perform with the orchestra. She commented: "the Nielsen flute concerto is really a very challenging piece for both orchestra and soloist and everything came together perfectly. The Sheldonian was packed full, with a great turn-out from Brasenose."
Debut Novels by Brasenose Alumni
Two Brasenose alumni have just brought out their debut novels in the same month: Grace McLeen's The Land of Decoration has just been published by Chatto and Windus and Ben Masters's Noughties is out with Hamish Hamilton. Both authors studied English at Brasenose, and it's really wonderful to see their extraordinary academic talents translating into acclaimed works of fiction.
Ben Masters's Noughties is a rambunctious, stylish, exuberantly comic novel which opens in the King's Arms as Eliot Lamb and his friends celebrate the last night of their three years as Oxford students. Readers can judge for themselves how accurately Ben has drawn on his time at Brasenose to create the erudite tutorials and alcohol-fuelled nights of his hero's time at Holywell College. The self-admiring tutors could, of course, only be the product of an untrammelled and fanciful imagination.
Ben went on to complete a Masters in English at Brasenose, and is currently writing a Ph.D. on style and contemporary fiction at Cambridge University. With panache and humour, Ben draws on a whole host of influences. To quote the Financial Times:
‘Ben Masters' lively debut novel Noughties is thick with allusions to popular culture and song. Amid the paragraphs of pastiche Martin Amis and Oscar Wilde are lyrics by Joe Strummer and Jarvis Cocker. Noughties is, among other things, a bittersweet hymn to the "ignorant bliss" and "entitlement" of student days. Masters finds lugubrious, philosophic humour in his own university past and in human ambition generally.... Masters' influences are diverse, borrowing from Joyce as well as the scurrilities of Restoration poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, (on whom Eliot writes an essay) to contrive a lewd, exaggerated prose. ... Noughties is a caustic, street-smart novel for our times.'
Grace McLeen's magical and haunting first novel, The Land of Decoration centres on Judith, brought up in a fundamentalist Christian sect, who comes to believe she has the power to control events through her miniature model ‘land of decoration'. It's an acute, remarkable, heart-stopping and often comically acerbic novel, which is, as the Daily Mail put it, ‘a small miracle in itself'. To quote the Independent, ‘Grace McLeen's writing is deep, fantastical and powerful ... She has been able to observe a fascinating, self-contained world with generosity, wonder and spirit. This is a wonderful gem of a debut novel.'
New Catering Facilities Unveiled
The College was delighted to unveil new catering facilities during a ceremony and complimentary breakfast for staff and students on the 14th of March.
Fabulous new modern kitchens have been installed, with state-of-the-art cooking equipment fit for the 21st century, helping our chefs to continue to provide excellent food for up to 500 students per day. Lorraine Watkins, our head chef, commented: "we are all very excited about the new kitchen and the team all want to come up with new ideas for the menu". The kitchens were officially opened by representatives of the undergraduate, graduate, staff and academic communities during a ribbon cutting ceremony (photo, right).
A beautiful new dining facility has also been created in a fully restored 15th century building in the heart of college, originally the college kitchens and most recently used as the servery. The new dining space, to be known as the Mediaeval Kitchen will complement the existing 16th century dining hall, which will remain the main location for student meals. A new servery, where students will collect their meals, has also been added. Philip Parker, Bursar, comments: "This has been a huge and complex project, but we have finished on time and within budget. The design and construction have been to a very high standard and we are delighted with the resulting buildings which are both beautiful and functional. The architects at Berman Guedes Stretton, the builders at Kingerlee, and all the other consultants and contractors involved did an excellent job for the College."
10k in a Morph Suit
Dan Wainwright (3rd Year - PPE) has run 10 kilometres in an all-body Spandex ‘Morph Suit' for charity. His report of the race is below:
"Arriving at the river by Ham House for my 10k, the first thing that struck me was that no-one was in fancy dress. In fact, everyone else looked like they knew what they were doing (some were even warming up). Training, for them, had probably consisted of more than one run followed by an eating competition. I got a few surprised looks as the civilian clothes came off and my alter ego, MorphMan, came out.
As the race got underway, I realised that the biggest problem would not be breathing, but the fact that I could only see about three yards ahead of me. The world was strangely two dimensional, and I had to follow very close behind people so I knew where I was going. Fortunately after about four kilometres the sun was behind me, so I could see much better. However throwing water over my face was not the best decision I will ever make as this led to a momentary panic as I lost my bearings completely. After an exciting sprint finish I clocked in at 58 minutes and 22 seconds, a time I was very happy with given the circumstances.
Research Sketch: Dr Simon Smith (Senior Tutor)
Did abolition of the transatlantic slave trade damage enslaved women's health?
In 1807, the British parliament voted to abolish the transatlantic slave trade, following a long campaign led by William Wilberforce.
While most plantation owners opposed abolition, a few did not - including Joseph Foster Barham II, who owned Mesopotamia sugar estate in Jamaica.
Appalled by the suffering caused by the slave trade, Foster Barham (as MP for Stockbridge) voted with Wilberforce in the House of Commons for abolition and voluntarily ceased to purchase new African arrivals in 1792, 15 years before legal abolition. Mesopotamia's records are unusually detailed and record the ages, date of arrival, origin (whether African or born on the estate), health status, and work duties of 1,099 enslaved individuals on the estate between 1762 and 1832. These manuscripts are preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
On Mesopotamia, withdrawal from the slave trade led to an increase in the number of women sent to work in the cane fields, work considered to be the most arduous and riskiest on a plantation. Survival analysis suggests there was an accompanying deterioration in their survival chances: estimates suggest the risk of death was about 55% to 75%higher for women arriving on the estate after 1792 than before. To test whether exposure to fieldwork accounts for reduced survival prospects, the actual survival times of slaves (i.e. time to death) was compared with their counterfactual survival times had they never been exposed to fieldwork. The technique employed is intended to avoid problems caused by the ‘healthy worker survival effect': the tendency for labourers to be withdrawn from a hazardous occupation as their health failed, and reallocated to lighter duties.
Estimates suggest that continuous exposure to fieldwork on a sugar estate, relative to never being exposed, reduced survival times by approximately 30%. Consequently, the dread slaves felt at being sent to the fields appears well placed, especially for women who were less likely to occupy supervisory roles in sugar cultivation and, therefore, enjoyed the least amount of protection.
John Ackrill Memorial Lecture in Ancient Philosophy
The fourth annual John Ackrill Memorial Lecture in Ancient Philosophy took place at Brasenose College on the evening of Thursday 8th March 2012. Professor Gisela Striker, CBE, FBA spoke on 'Two ways of deliberating - Aristotle and the Stoics'.
Professor Striker has recently retired from a joint appointment in Philosophy and Classics at Harvard University. She taught philosophy at Göttingen from 1971-1986, then at Columbia University in the late 1980s, and at Harvard from 1989 until 1997. She taught at the University of Cambridge until 2000, when she returned to teaching at Harvard. She is interested in ancient philosophy, teaching Plato and Aristotle, as well as earlier and later Greek and Roman authors. She has written mostly on topics in Hellenistic philosophy and on Aristotelian logic.
Professor John Lloyd Ackrill, a leading figure in the study of Ancient Greek philosophy, joined Brasenose College in 1953 and became Professor of the History of Philosophy at Oxford in 1966. He published widely on Aristotle and Plato and, for over 40 years, he edited the Clarendon Aristotle Series, which are translations of Aristotelian texts accompanied by philosophical commentaries. The John Ackrill Memorial Lecture, inaugurated in 2009, is held in honour of the outstanding contribution he made to the study of ancient philosophy.
Dr Abigail Green wins Sami Rohr Prize
Dr Abigail Green, Fellow in History at Brasenose College, has won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Choice Award, for her biography, Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero.
The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literaturewas established in 2007 by the family of Sami Rohr, with the Jewish Book Council, in honor of his lifelong love of Jewish writing. In conjunction with this award, the Rohr family has established the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, a forum devoted to the continuity of Jewish literature, which recognizes the important role of emerging writers in examining the Jewish experience.
In Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero, Dr Green re-establishes Montefiore's status as a major historical player. Drawing on source material from eleven countries in nine languages, Green's sweeping biography interweaves the public triumph of Montefiore's foreign missions with the private tragedy of his childless marriage, and brings the diversity of nineteenth century Jewry brilliantly to life - from London to Jerusalem, Rome to St. Petersburg, Morocco to Istanbul. Here, we see the origins of Zionism and the rise of international Jewish consciousness; the grand humanitarian campaigns of the Anglo-Saxon world and the faltering birth of international human rights; the shifting relations between Christians, Jews and Muslims; European penetration of Palestine and the making of the modern Middle East.
Brasenose welcomes Vanessa Redgrave as Visiting Professor
The University of Oxford Humanities Division and Brasenose College were delighted to welcome stage and film actress Vanessa Redgrave as the Humanitas Visiting Professor in Drama. She delivered lectures and took part in a symposium in Oxford during early February, as well as dining at Brasenose.
The programme of events focussed on the theme of Theatre and Politics and included lectures on King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra. The symposium held on Friday 10th February also featured actor Ralph Fiennes, Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington and playwright Simon Stephen.
Vanessa Redgrave can currently be seen starring in Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut Coriolanus. During her film career she has starred in films such as A Man For All Seasons, Howards End, A Month By The Lake, Mrs. Dalloway and Atonement. She received an Academy Award in 1978 for her supporting role in Julia. Her scores of major roles on the stage most recently include recreating The Year of Magical Thinking at the National Theatre; Lady Windermere's Fan at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket; The Tempest for the RSC at Shakespeare's Globe; and The Cherry Orchard at the Royal National Theatre. She starred on Broadway in the landmark 2003 production of Long Day's Journey Into Night and more recently in Driving Miss Daisy.
Vanessa has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1995 and is an active supporter of Amnesty International and Liberty. She was awarded the CBE in 1967.
(image courtesy of Annabel Clark)
Talking Heads in Brasenose Chapel
Come and enjoy three parts of Alan Bennett's best known and most loved work, 'Talking Heads.' Three monologues will be performed in Brasenose Chapel at 5pm on Friday 10th February, each portraying a troubled and deluded individual let down by society's most respected institutions: the church, the media and social services. Simultaneously touching and irreverent, these monologues epitomise black humour in all its poignancy.
In 'Bed among the Lentils' we see a lonely and disillusioned woman, wife of a vicar, who is struggling to come to terms with her lack of faith in the church and her alcoholism. In 'A Lady of Letters', a pedantic middle-aged citizen unleashes a tide of epistolary invective on her community and must ‘suffer' the consequences. In 'Her Big Chance' a minor actress must take on her most challenging role in her career to date.
All proceeds from the event will be donated to KEEN Oxford, a charity which supports children and young adults with learning difficulties. Brasenose's very own Head Porter, Andy Talbot, will give a short talk on the work of the charity and his involvement with it.
Monitoring Jake’s Progress
Jake's Progress, a new play, written by Richard O'Brien (4th Year English and Modern Languages) and produced by Amy Lewin (2nd Year English) is being shown from Wednesday 15th February to Saturday 18th February 2012 at the Keble College O'Reilly Theatre.
Jacob Weston wants to make music, but he also wants to make... it. His golden ticket to fame is provided on a silver platter by a major record producer, and his rise is glorious. His face is on a range of ethical soap, his twitter page is followed by the pope, his music is the new big thing. But it comes at a price. Jake must let himself be turned into a brand and be milked for all he's worth. In the process he forgets himself and puts his trust in this surface world of fame. But fame is a fickle lover, the golden ticket is gilded, and Jake must learn to face the music.
Brasenose student translates WWI Propaganda
Becky Staw, 4th Year French and German student, has helped Hull Museums by translating two propaganda leaflets, written in Gothic German script by allied forces and distributed by balloon on German soil during the First World War. The leaflets were likely to have been designed to deflate German morale.
The first document (pictured) tells of retreating German troops and is translated as "The German armies, having already been driven back across the Marne, had barely had time to gather reinforcements and establish new positions when British and French units launched an offensive against another part of the front.
From Albert to Montdidier to the point, further south, where the Western Front turns eastwards, German units commanded by General von Hutier and General von Marwitz have been pushed back several miles. At the centre of the offensive they have had to retreat over sixteen miles in the space of three days. These withdrawing German troops were subject to constant attacks by units of cavalry and tanks and in many cases retreat turned into rout. German losses amounted to 24,000 prisoners, 400 artillery pieces as well as a large part of the ground which had been captured in the March Offensive.