Archive for February 5, 2013

Changing Times

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , on February 5, 2013 by telescoper

I couldn’t resist a quick comment about the news that today the House of Commons began a debate on the second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The timing of this when I’ve just moved back to Brighton after an absence of 23 years or so made me think back to what things were like when I was previously here as a DPhil student.

In those days the dominant concern facing LBGT staff and students was the notorious Section 28, part of the Local Government Act of 1988, which, among other things, attacked promotion of “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. I remember very well the numerous demonstrations and other protests I went on as part of the campaign against that repugnant and obviously discriminatory piece of legislation, but it passed into law anyway. I know 25 years is a long time, 1988 was before today’s generation of undergraduates was even born, but it’s still amazing to me that attitudes have changed so much that there’s even a remote possibility that same sex marriage might be legalized. And from what I hear, the possibility isn’t remote at all…


A Lab of Honour

Posted in Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on February 5, 2013 by telescoper

Last Friday, my first day in post here at the University of Sussex, there was a small ceremony to mark the formal opening of a new undergraduate teaching laboratory. Appropriately, it was named after Professor Ken Smith who died last year. Professor Smith was an outstanding experimental physicist who joined the University of Sussex way back in 1960 before the campus had even been built. Over the next three decades, as well as developing a new research activity in which the Department is now world-leading, he made substantial contributions to laboratory teaching in particular. He also played his part in the administration of the Department, serving as the first Chairman of Physics, and then as Dean of the School of Mathematical and Physics Sciences (MAPS) and later as Laboratory Director. Prof. Smith retired in 1988, which was the year I finished my DPhil from the (then) School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences.


Anyway, it was a pleasant occasion at which Prof. Philip Harris (to the left of the picture), Head of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, spoke of Professor Ken Smith’s many achievements, Ken’s widow Verena unveiled the commemorative plaque, and we all gathered for tea and cakes in the foyer so as not to disturb further the students still hard at work at their experiments…