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Greetings from the Festival!

We’re writing on the 191st birthday of one of the greatest thinkers the world has ever seen. James Clerk Maxwell discovered the nature of light itself, going deep below the surface into a world of abstract form with mathematics the only means to explore it. He did some of his greatest work at the desk of his country house, or thinking and walking through the woods and by the river that runs through them, images of which can be seen in this video with specially composed music.
You can find out more about Maxwell through the special anniversary page on the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation’s website.

Maxwell’s theory led to the discovery of the radio waves that link the world today, and it’s now 100 years since public service broadcasting got under way with the BBC’s transmissions from 2LO in London. In this year’s Festival Prof. Tom Stevenson will tell the story of early radio with its broadcasts received on crystal sets with cat’s whiskers and on early thermionic valve wireless sets. Tune the Cat’s Whisker to 2LO will be on Monday 5 September.
On the same day we’ll have the story of Alexander Bain from Caithness who invented the electric clock, the fax machine and much before. Born in 1810 near Watten in Caithness, where his father was a tenant crofter, he left school at age 12 to work on his father’s farm. He became apprenticed to a clockmaker in Wick and one day went to a public lecture in Thurso which changed his life.

Elsewhere in the programme we’ll look to the future with the new science of transition engineering, and we’ll also hear about fresh approaches to bringing together farming, wildlife and people. We’ll feature Orkney’s rocks with walks, talks and films, and the launch of a comprehensive new website on Orkney Landscapes.
Also during the Festival we’ll hear about new research on Orkney genetics, applications of forensic science, studies of the surface of the sun, and new insights into the origins of the potato and of Orkney bere. The full programme will be available online from Thursday 30 June.

Meanwhile as a build-up, our series of talks Embers into Sparx continues this evening (Monday 13th) with a look at a remarkable Scottish biologist who developed a radically new picture of biology: that each organism is more than just the sum of its biochemical parts.
Edward Stuart Russell developed a new approach to biology, from a practical background in fisheries management. Born in Port Glasgow, he had a civil service career, becoming director of fisheries with time spent between London and Lowestoft. But in his own time he was developing a radically new picture of biology: that each organism is more than just the sum of its biochemical parts. Robin Bruce, who also shares a background in fisheries and science, believes Russell’s method is timely for today. 
Embers into Sparx Programme
All these events are on our YouTube channel where you can access them freely at any time.
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