Top astronomer delivers annual Bedales Science lecture
29th April 2015

One of the world’s leading radio astronomers, Anthony Readhead, Robinson Professor of Astronomy at Caltech (The California Institute of Technology), delivered this year’s Bedales Eckersley Lecture on 24 April 2015.

Professor Readhead held discussions with Bedales students and staff before delivering the annual Science lecture where he discussed the birth of modern science and cosmology with Copernicus, and its development through Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to the theory of inflation. The audience was introduced to state-of-the art observations that demonstrate that the universe is dominated by dark matter, which gave rise to the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets, and dark energy, and the latest thinking about the origin of the universe.

The event marked the opening of the new Kadian Observatory, built by five Bedales students to honour the memory of their friend and fellow student, Kadian Harding, who died tragically in 2012. The Observatory formed part of the students' Bedales Assessed Course in Outdoor Work. Completed in April 2014, the brick-built circular Kadian Observatory is approximately ten feet in diameter and has a retractable dome and a door carved from a hazel tree that grew on the school estate. Inside the Observatory stands a powerful Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a 12 inch aperture lens, capable of exploring more than 50,000 celestial objects and providing enough light for close-ups of the Rings of Saturn. The Kadian Observatory has acted as a catalyst for additional astronomy and science related initiatives at the school: the weekly student ‘Sky at Night’ activity is led by Michael Truss, Bedales Head of Academic Enrichment and Head of Mathematics who has a PhD in Theoretical Astrophysics and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society; an annual Kadian Harding Science and Technology Prize has also been introduced for students in Block 3 (Year 9) who have shown outstanding scientific inquiry.

Professor Readhead commented:

“The students were so forthcoming and easy to engage that I found my visit an absolute delight, with wide-ranging discussions and many fascinating questions. I was tremendously struck by the breadth of interests of all the students I interacted with. Bedales students are treated like responsible adults and they respond magnificently. This enlightening ethos stems from the top and pervades the whole school.”

Keith Budge, Headmaster of Bedales Schools, added:

“We are incredibly grateful to Professor Anthony Readhead for coming from the California Institute of Technology to deliver such an inspirational lecture; like all great talks, this one delighted in the interconnectedness of things, such as man's urge to create art linked to the timespan of the universe. We were touched that Tony dedicated his lecture to Kadian Harding, whose short time at Bedales was marked by this kind of wonder and enquiry.”

Caltech is a world-renowned science and engineering educational research institution with an astronomy and astrophysics department that is at the cutting edge of modern-day research. It has been home to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1958. Professor Readhead has led the Cosmic Background Imager project in Chile for 10 years and his main areas of interest are observational cosmology, especially the cosmic microwave background radiation, and active galaxies.

Since its introduction in 1966, Bedales’ annual Science lecture has attracted leading scientists including two Nobel prize winners, three life peers and three directors of the Royal Institution; recent lecturers have included Robert Winston and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. The lecture is named after brothers Thomas and Peter Eckersley who attended Bedales in the early 1900s.  Peter was a pioneer of British broadcasting, and became the first Chief Engineer of the BBC in 1922; Thomas worked for Marconi as a theoretical research engineer. Their cousin was writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World.

About Bedales
Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, Hampshire (UK): Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). The vision of Bedales' founder, John Badley, was to create a school which would be profoundly different from the public schools of his day. From 1893, when Bedales began, there was a determination to shape the school around what was considered best for the individual child's educational welfare and happiness. Two strands predominated: breadth ("Head, Hand and Heart") and the cultivation of the individual's intellectual and personal qualities ("Intelligence, Initiative and Individuality"). Many of Badley's early innovations are now mainstream: co-educational boarding (at Bedales since 1898); the emphasis put on the Arts, Sciences and voluntary service; the importance of pastoral care; and listening to students' views (the Bedales School Council was established in 1916). Even so, the contrast between Bedales and other schools remains strong. We believe that our informality engenders a genuine sense of partnership between teacher and student - a shared excitement about ideas and educational discovery. Educational innovation continues today with our Bedales Assessed courses.