On Wednesday 11th January, eighteen students from the LVth Purvis society and six members of staff attended ‘An Audience with Robert Winston’ at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford. The 71-year old Lord Winston, who has a distinguished medical and media career, spoke for 45 minutes to a captivated audience, after which he fielded questions from the floor for an hour.
He was an engaging and charismatic speaker who inspired the audience to think beyond the scientific ‘facts’ that are often taken as ‘read’ in school lessons and in the media. The particular thrust of his discussion was about how scientific and technological advances can be used for good or ill, which is the theme of his recent book ‘Bad Ideas’. Examples he touched upon included: the internet, the Human Genome Project, human sterilisation, and the future of fuels. He also talked about how the applications of new scientific discoveries are often not realised until many years later; for example, discovering how reproductive hormones work found its most wide-spread application in its use in the contraceptive pill. Questions from the audience were on a variety of topics, including how we can achieve better science education in the UK, how we can encourage more scientists to enter politics, and the issue of multiple-births resulting from IVF.