Lunar Lecture – ‘A short, fat little democrat’ and a pioneering doctor, scientist and poet: Thomas Beddoes and the legacy of the Lunar Society by Professor Tim Fulford
June 13 @ 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm£6.00
Thomas Beddoes was Erasmus Darwin’s self-appointed protege: he, like Darwin welcomed revolutions — whether the French Revolution in politics, the revolution in geology that showed the earth was millions of years old, or the revolution in chemistry that discovered oxygen. In the 1790s, he set up the world’s first scientific research institute — the Pneumatic Institution — in Bristol. Funded by Darwin and his Lunar Society friends the Wedgwoods, the Watts and James Keir, it aimed to create a revolutionary therapy that would cure one of the deadliest of diseases — TB. Using breathing apparatus designed by James Watt, Beddoes administered to consumptive patients the new gases discovered by Joseph Priestley — a project Darwin had begun but not taken very far. Oxygen and later nitrous oxide were the bright new hopes of scientific medicine — very much the legacy of the Lunar Society. Although they did not cure consumption, they remain vital treatments today — ‘gas and air’ is used on a daily basis to help women in labour, while oxygen saved thousands of Covid patients before vaccines were manufactured. Beddoes was a pioneering epidemiologist, one of the first to recognise, as flu killed thousands, that the only way to slow its spread was to collect and analyse data about infections and to give consistent advice about social distancing. Definitely no parties!
In this illustrated lecture, Professor Tim Fulford, who is editing Beddoes’s letters for Cambridge University Press, will sketch Beddoes’s life and work, focusing especially on the relationships with Darwin, Watt and Wedgwood that are revealed in his correspondence.
This lecture will be held live and also on zoom.