G.I. Taylor lecture: The influence of GI Taylor: granular collapses, viscous gravity currents, explosive eruptions and chemical gardens

Professor Herbert Huppert

  • 29 January 2024, 18:00 – 19:00
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Lecture Theatre
This event has passed Booking Recommended
  • Event cost: Free
  • Disabled access?: Yes
  • Booking required: No



The presentation will start will a short summary of the seminal work of G. I. Taylor and his most famous student, G. K. Batchelor. Evaluations of the propagation of muti-sized granular material under a variety of conditions will then be described, as well as being illustrated with desk top experiments.

The lecture will then discuss the all important flow of viscous gravity currents, again illustrated by desk top experiments and actual photos and explanations of the recent eruption of the Soufriere of St. Vincent. A description of the development of chemical gardens will then be described, initially experimented upon by Johan Glauber, said to be the first chemical engineer, and then by Isaac Newton. It is said by some that chemical gardens are the origin of life, at deep-sea smokers, as will be described.


Professor of Theoretical Geophysics, Faculty of Mathematics

G.I. Taylor Lecture

Geoffrey Ingram Taylor (1886-1975) was a polymath, one of the most notable scientists of this century, occupying a leading place in applied, science, classical physics and engineering science. His most notable contributions have been in the fields of mechanics of fluids and solids, with application to meteorology, oceanography, aeronautics, metal physics, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering. He was a great experimentalist, with well-honed practical skills (whilst a schoolboy GI build a sailing boat 13.5 feet long in his bedroom (which was 14 feet long), doing it all himself apart from some help from his mother in making the sails, and sailed it alone from Hammersmith to Sheerness and back, sleeping on board with one leg either side of the centreboard case.

He was interested in science from an early age, and at the age of 11 attended the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures from Sir Oliver Lodge on ‘The principles of the electric telegraph’. These made a deep impression on him and he is quoted as saying that ‘from that time I knew I wanted to be a scientist’. Taking inspiration from the practical demonstrations in the lectures, he built his own Wimshurst machine and used it to generate low-energy X-rays  (which had just been discovered).

GI returned to Cambridge as a lecturer in mathematics; he was not much interested in teaching, but the award of a Royal Society Research Professorship in 1923 enabled him to move to a research position at the Cavendish. He remained a Fellow of Trinity all his life.  

“I think that if I were to start again I should still try to be an applied mathematician, because the number of amusing activities to which mathematics can lead on is so great” (1952).

Source: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/epdf/10.1098/rsbm.1976.0021


Venue Details
Bristol-Myers Squibb Lecture Theatre
Department of Chemistry
29 Lensfield Rd
Cambridge CB2 1ER
01223 336300
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