Astounding Inventions – Heritage Open Day Celebrations

This year, Heritage Open Days are celebrating England’s rich history of invention, industry and innovation with their 2022 theme, ‘Astounding Inventions.’ Whether it’s transporting visitors back to the industrial revolution, examining the inventions that power our daily lives, highlighting the legacy of a local inventor, or showcasing cutting-edge innovations – this year they are inviting our festival community to showcase the diverse tapestry of English inventions that make our world go around.

At Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, we are bringing some astounding inventions of our own. Cutting-edge technologies have featured prominently in the lectures we have hosted, many of which are available to watch recorded in our YouTube archive. Below is a short sample of what our ever-growing library currently has available. These lectures primarily focus on the origin and history of inventions or exploring their potential uses and implications for humanity.


The History and Nature of AI

Artificial Intelligence, a term coined in 1955, is perhaps the hottest topic of all in the modern era, with great potential to solve and create problems, the likes of which humanity has never seen before. The UN has even recognised it as a major existential threat. Dr Rob Wortham of Bath University lectures on the history of AI since its conception and explores the question of whether it is friend or foe.


Artificial Intelligence and Human Lives: Looking Towards 2025-75

Already, AI has become a cornerstone of the technology our modern society relies on to function. It has found uses in medicine, defence, policing and more, including scientific research, where it serves a vital role in the fight against COVID-19. But what is the future of humanity and AI? Dr Joanna Bryson of the Hertie School of Governance provides expert insight, arguing that AI is for humans to control, not the other way around.


Virtual Reality – In Assessment and Rehabilitation

Many of us are familiar with virtual reality in terms of video games and immersive novelty experiences, but as VR technology has advanced, some have seen more practical potential applications, including as a tool in clinical psychology – in diagnosis, treatment and research. Dr Alexandra Voinescu from Bath University discusses some of the most recent research indicating how VR may change the way we treat those suffering from mental health problems.


A Journey Through Quantum Technologies

In this lecture, Dr Alessia Pasquazi of Sussex University shows us how many of the technologies we already make extensive use of, from TV remotes to smartphones, work with the mind-bending power of quantum physics, and how quantum technology is poised to revolutionise the field of IT


The Metaverse – Fad or Fundamental Game Changer?

What exactly is the Metaverse and why are some people so excited about it? Will it really change anything, or will it revolutionise commerce, education and entertainment? Kate Ancketill, CEO of global business futurist consultancy GDR, (, is a world authority on the future of retail, and spends this lecture explaining the Metaverse and its potential, but reminds us that nobody yet has definitive answers on its future with us.


First Steps to Interstellar Probes – Project Glowworm

For decades, humanity has dreamed of sailing the great sea of space, but the sheer distances involved have prevented us from exploring much further than our closest celestial neighbours. John I. Davies of the Initiative & Institute for Interstellar Studies (i4is) discusses how Project Glowworm aims to change this, with exciting advancements in laser thrust technology that may allow spacecraft to reach speeds never seen before.


Hipparcos and Gaia: Space Astrometry – Unravelling the Formation and Evolution of Our Galaxy

Launched in 2013 and in continuing operation, the European Space Agency’s Gaia Observatory is one of humanity’s most impressive technological marvels to date. Successor to Hipparcos, this satellite’s mission is to build a 3D map of our galaxy, measuring the positions of over two billion stars with unprecedented accuracy. Dr Michael Perryman of the European Space Agency lectures on the history and significance of astrometry, leading up to the Gaia project, of which he is one of the founders.


The James Webb Telescope: A New Generation of Hubble Telescope

Launched on Christmas Day 2021, the James Webb Telescope is the successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990. Six times the size of Hubble, the James Webb is the largest optical telescope in orbit to date, and will expand our frontiers of observation in the quest to better understand the universe and find life on other planets. Professor Martin Ward of Durham University has been involved in this project, and eager to share the story of the telescope’s creation, and a flavour of what is to come.

Further astounding inventions and our full archive of past talks

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