Nick at the Orkney International Science Festival

By Nick Morrison

Origins of life on Earth

The John D. MacKay Memorial Lecture

Prof Karim Labib of Dundee University opened by saying that life on Earth can be traced back  to single cell organisms 3 billion years of age, the earth itself is around 4.5 billion years old. Possibly in rocky pools near volcanic vents.

Darwin (1859) noted small differences between creatures and came up with his theory of natural selection. Robert Hooke showed the existence of cells as far back as 1665, Prof Labib went on to describe cell replication, DNA, RNA and genome sequence, the first genome sequence was established in 1996. There is only 1% difference between a chimps genome and ours!

One O’Clock toasts

sci fest 3The one o clock toasts are an enduring feature of the Science festival. They honour Orcadians past and present. This Year the theme was Orcadian women and their achievements.

I don’t always manage to get to them, pity the food is excellent, bread from Rendalls, smoked delicacies from Humes , meat from Donaldsons, home bakes and soups from the Ladies of the Kirk, I don’t know which of the ladies made curried parsnip soup — but please can she  make it again!  You are offered juice or Rob’s “Scapa Special” for the toast, and any amount of tea or coffee.

Friday saw the artist Sylvia Wishart being honoured by Carol Dunbar.

Saturday saw Bessie Millie Stromness’s first renewables pioneer honoured by Harvey Johnston.

On Monday it was the turn Christian Robertson an 18th C shipping agent  from Stromness given by the historian Jocelyn Rendall. There are not many female shipping agents even now but in the 18th C it was a marvel.

Tuesday was the turn of Catherine Tulloch of North Ronaldsay who travelled to Chicago for the worlds fair in 1832, bringing back one of the worlds first serrated knives. She established the hen and egg business on North Ronaldsay. She was also an accomplished knitter and some of he designs are still in use today. The toast was given by Sinclair Scott.

sci fest 4 knitted socks and serrated knife, North Ronaldsay


On Wednesday Anne Leith Brundle  , the first Curator of Orkney’s archaeology was honoured by Patricia Long.

sci fest 5


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