Explore the RSE school talks on social studies.

How Scientific Was Ancient Science?

Dr Alice König

Did you know that modern medical students still learn scientific principles that were first discussed by the ancient Greeks? Did you know that architecture is thought of today as a science (like engineering) and not a trade (like plumbing) because of the scientific writings of an ancient Roman called Vitruvius? The word ‘science’ comes from the Latin word scientia (meaning ‘knowledge’); but what exactly did they (and
what do we) mean when we talk of ‘science’?

This workshop will look at ancient attitudes to different kinds of knowledge and different kinds of scientific enquiry as a way of thinking about how we imagine, value and do science today.

How to read an old book

Professor Jeremy Smith FRSE

Until just over a century ago English and Scots were recorded not through capturing sound electronically but through writing alone: in print from the fifteenth century onwards, in manuscripts (books, scrolls, single sheets) produced by scribes on paper or vellum, and as inscriptions on stone, bone and metal. All these texts, moreover, reflect in subtle ways the complex cultural settings in which they were produced.

Texts explored in this presentation include: some etchings on a bone found in an ancient cemetery; a runic inscription on a gigantic stone cross in Dumfriesshire; a big bronze jug made in England around 1395 CE that ended up being looted from a royal palace in Ghana at the end of the nineteenth century; a beautiful illuminated gospel book made in the eighth century CE, scribbled on three hundred years later by someone who was so proud of himself that he tells us is name; two (very different) fifteenth-century copies of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales; and some of the earliest printed books in English and Scots, including the works of Shakespeare and the Scottish epics The Bruce and The Wallace.

The Travel Show Must Go On

Dr Sandro Carnicelli

We move, we travel, we tour. But, why and at what cost? The tourism industry is one of the main industries in the world and it is linked to arts, culture, education, leisure, business, and politics but also with life and physical sciences. Find out in this talk the pros and cons of tourism and how can we behave to make our tourism sustainable.

This talk will explore aspects of tourist behaviour and their connections to the concept sustainability. The concept of the talk follows recent work I have done in tourism education and the importance to educate the current and future generation of travellers about their footprints and the decisions they make regarding travelling and tourism. It hopes to achieve using examples and role play a critical reflection of our actions as consumers of tourism and the consequences to environment, local communities (including indigenous populations), and local economies.

War Stories And How They Affect Us

Dr Alice König

Who tells battle narratives, and why? What shapes and forms do they come in? (poems, histories, art, film, news reports, speeches, protests) How do they affect the ways in which we respond to past or present conflicts and imagine future ones? Humans have waged war with each other from ancient times to the modern world, and for just as long we have told tales about bravely won victories and devastating defeats, about military discipline and the chaos of the battlefield, about conquered peoples and the suffering that war brings.

This talk will look at a range of battle narratives from ancient Greece to the present day and ask what we can learn about different habits of visualising war, in all sorts of different media, and what role war stories of the future might play in shaping attitudes to conflict.

What Is ‘Expertise’?

Dr Alice König

This talk will examine the ways in which different societies have understood and imagined ‘expertise’, from the ancient world to the modern day. What did/do people look for or value in experts? How was/is expertise measured, and by what or whom? What kind of power or authority did/does expertise give individuals and institutions? Is expertise a universally recognisable phenomenon, or something that gets constructed differently by different individuals and communities? How have attitudes to experts and expertise changed in recent years and months, particularly in the light of the Brexit debate and the Covid-19 pandemic? To set the scene and shake up our modern assumptions, we will start by looking at ancient Greek and Roman attitudes to expertise, when there were no formal qualifications and when ‘virtue’ played as big a role as knowledge in some definitions of expertise.

We will also look at how ideas of expertise changed during the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the so-called ‘Enlightenment’, before considering the use and abuse of experts/expertise during the 19th and 20th centuries. We will end by considering the impact which the digital age has had upon ideas about expertise and the traditional authority of experts, discussing the ‘democritisation’ of expertise but also instances of increasing hostility to experts/expertise and the implications of that for society as a whole

RSE school talks programme

Activities to support the curriculum for excellence

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), offers free school talks, aimed at P6-S6, at any point during the school terms, either in person at your school or online.

Download the RSE school talks programme 2023/24 (PDF, 2MB)

All RSE school talks

Explore the RSE school talks on astronomy and astrophysics. Professor Martin Hendry MBE FRSE More than 50 years after Apollo
Explore the RSE school talks on biology. Professor Karim Labib FRSE The first living creatures can be traced back to
Explore the RSE school talks on expressive arts. Professor Ian Brown FRSE In this talk, Ian Brown draws on over
Explore the RSE school talks on health and wellbeing. Dr Roger Scrutton FRSE In this talk, we’ll move outdoors for
Explore the RSE school talks on languages. Dr Alice König Authors like J. K. Rowling and Michael Morpurgo are amazing
Explore the RSE school talks on mathematics. Dr Michael J. Barany Numbers and calculations play a major role in our
Explore the RSE school talks on physics. Alison McLure Mountain Rescue Teams go out in all weathers, at any time
Explore the RSE school talks on religious and moral education. Professor Michela Massimi FRSE What counts as evidence in science?
Explore the RSE school talks on social studies. Dr Alice König Did you know that modern medical students still learn
Explore the RSE school talks on astronomy and astrophysics. Dr Joyce Klu It is essential that any measurement is as
Explore the RSE school talks on technologies. Dr Caroline Wilkinson FRSE This talk will focus on describing facial depiction from

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To discuss talk availability for your school, or more information, please get in touch with us by email Jessica Fletcher on [email protected] or by the enquiry form:

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