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One Hundred Scientific Facts Linked to the Bristol City Region


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One Hundred Scientific Facts Linked to the Bristol City Region





  1. Bristol is one of six Science Cities in England, a status granted in recognition of having a high concentration of world-class scientific research in the university sector, and of innovative research and development in the industrial sector.

  2. The British & Colonial Aeroplane Company, forerunner of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, Bristol Cars Ltd, Bristol Aero Engines Ltd, British Aircraft Corporation, British Aerospace, the Bristol Engines Division of Rolls-Royce and BAe Systems, among other companies, was founded in Filton in 1910.

  3. William Champion, one of a large clan of Quaker businessmen, invented a new process for smelting zinc, setting up a large-scale smelting plant in Warmley in 1746 that was also used for smelting copper and making brassware.

  4. Bristol Neuroscience was founded by the University of Bristol in 2003 to raise awareness of the extent and range of neuroscience in Bristol, encourage collaboration and create opportunities for interdisciplinary research.

  5. In 1782, William Watts, a Bristol plumber, patented a process of producing high-quality spherical shot using a specially-built tower at his Redcliff Hill home and molten Mendip lead.

  6. Professor Joe McGeehan of the Centre for Communications Research at the University of Bristol developed a secure portable radio in the 1980s that became the basis of Nokia’s first mass-market mobile phones.

  7. Bristol-born inventor and coal merchant Samuel Plimsoll, the sailor’s friend, was instrumental in getting protective measures for seamen written into the 1876 Merchant Shipping Act, including the use of markings denoting the maximum load to be painted on ships’ hulls, which became known as the Plimsoll Load Line.

  8. At-Bristol, based on Bristol’s Harbourside, is one of the country’s leading science centres and is responsible for a number of innovative science communication and education programmes.

  9. Early-nineteenth-century engineer Sarah Guppy of Arnos Vale patented a bed with built-in exercise equipment and a machine for making coffee or boiling eggs, among other inventions.

  10. The David Bullet Laboratory in Physics at the University of Bath researches the behaviour of materials when they are made up of ultra-small components whose dimensions approach the scale of a nanometre (one billionth of a metre).

  11. George Pocock, a schoolmaster at Prospect Place Academy for boys invented the ‘char-volant’, a carriage powered by kites, in the 1820s and was often seen on the roads around Bristol reaching speeds of over 20 mph.

  12. Former Bristol University Professor Martin Lowson and his team are developing a revolutionary system of miniature trams known as ULTra, giving effective, low cost and sustainable transport for cities, airports and special developments worldwide.

  13. The Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Bath is an interdepartmental network set up to enable work on regenerative medicine to be underpinned by an understanding of normal developmental mechanisms.

  14. Cornish chemist Sir Humphry Davy, inventor of the miners’ safety lamp, came to Bristol in 1799 to work at Thomas Beddoes’ Pneumatic Institution where he administered laughing gas (nitrous oxide), which was initially used for recreational rather than anaesthetic purposes.

  15. The CREATE Centre in Bristol is home to Bristol City Council’s Environmental Quality and Sustainable City Team, the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Bristol & Somerset Energy Efficiency Advice Centre, The Recycling Consortium and other organisations working in the field of sustainable development.

  16. The Genomics Research Institute at the University of the West of England houses state-of-the-art equipment for post-genomics research, currently focused mainly on molecular plant science and molecular biomedicine.

  17. Professors Peter Fleming and Jem Berry of the University of Bristol uncovered a link between the sleeping position of babies and cot deaths which has led to the prevention of an estimated 100,000 deaths worldwide.

  18. The Interface Analysis Centre at the University of Bristol is a semi-commercial, multi-disciplinary department hosting a range of surface analytical techniques which allow the investigation of surfaces and interfaces in solid-state materials.

  19. The innovative engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, born 1806, achieved his greatest triumphs – the Great Western Railway and other rail lines, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the ss Great Britain – in and around Bristol.

  20. The Centre for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of the West of England brings together a group of environmental scientists to promote integrated multi- and interdisciplinary research into the environment, the damaging effects of pollution and how to remedy this damage.

  21. Henry Jones, a baker and confectioner in Broadmead, patented his self-raising flour in 1845, which was praised in the Lancet for its ‘contribution to public health and to the daily comfort of the masses’.

  22. The Centre for Organized Matter Chemistry at the University of Bristol is an interdisciplinary research centre focusing on the development of new science and new applications in the emerging field of materials chemistry.

  23. Bristol is home to many traditional and new media ventures, including major broadcasters like BBC Bristol, internationally successful production companies like Aardman Animations Ltd, smaller independent companies and freelancers, support services and production facilities, placing it at the cutting edge of media production particularly in the fields of animation, natural history, short film, documentary and docu-drama.

  24. Set up in 2005, the Centre for Space, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Bath is concerned with research in remote-sensing techniques and in the exploitation of such techniques for scientific studies.

  25. Edward Jenner came to Bristol in 1799 to inoculate the city’s population against smallpox.

  26. Airbus UK’s Filton site handles around half of all commercial airliner orders and is being increasingly used in the military field.

  27. The Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England is renowned for its innovative and diverse range of national and international activities, designed to engage the public with science.

  28. The Bristol-born physicist, Paul Dirac, who won a half share of the Nobel Prize in 1933 ‘for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory’, was a graduate of the University of Bristol.

  29. 3C Research Ltd, based in Bristol, is a unique collaborative research centre targeting and exploiting the convergence between the worlds of communications, computing and multi media content production, storage and distribution.

  30. The Scotsman John Loudon McAdam, Surveyor to the Bristol Turnpike Trust from 1815 to 1825, revolutionised road transport through improvements to road surfaces.

  31. Bristol, the point of production of around 25 per cent of the world’s wildlife films, is home to the bi-annual international Wildscreen Festival of natural history filmmaking, co-founded in 1982 by Chris Parsons who was a founder member of the BBC Natural History Unit, also based in Bristol.

  32. The Centre for Research in Analytical, Materials and Sensor Science at the University of the West of England has achieved international recognition in sensor sciences, employing a multi-disciplinary approach to the research and applications of sensors for the agri-food, environmental and biomedical sectors.

  33. Mobile Bristol is a test bed for technology and user research in mobility and future mobile services created by Hewlett Packard Labs, the University of Bristol and the Appliance Studio.

  34. Plasticine, the material of choice for many animators at Bristol-based Aardman Animations, was invented by a Bathampton art teacher, William Harbutt, in 1900.

  35. Hydro International, a company using innovative vortex technology to treat storm and wastewater, is working with the University of the West of England’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences in streamlining its design processes.

  36. Research at The Bristol Laboratory for Advanced Dynamics Engineering (BLADE), at the University of Bristol, Europe’s most advanced dynamics engineering facility, is aimed at characterising the performance of structures long before they go into service.

  37. Dr Joseph Fry, a young Quaker physician, began to make chocolate at his apothecary shop in Small Street, Bristol, in the middle of the eighteenth century, thus establishing the basis for J S Fry & Sons, the oldest chocolate firm in Britain.

  38. Cecil Frank Powell, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics 1950 ‘for his development of the photographic method of studying nuclear processes and his discoveries regarding mesons made with this method’ joined the teaching staff of the University in Bristol in 1927.

  39. Filton is the site of MBDA’s UK Electro-Magnetic Compatibility test facility, used on a range of missile systems.

  40. The Bristol Living Rivers Project promotes and facilitates the sustainable management, development and use of rivers in Bristol including biological monitoring.

  41. The Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society Gardens, which opened in 1836, is the fifth oldest zoo in the world and the oldest not in a capital city.

  42. The Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Nanotechnology Structures and Devices at the University of Bristol brings together physicists, biologists, chemists, engineers, mathematicians and medics so that they can interact creatively. 

  43. Elizabethan scholar, poet and courtier Sir John Harrington of Kelston near Bristol invented the first water closet.

  44. Bristol-born photographer William Friese-Greene experimented using celluloid to record movement in the 1880s, making him the precursor of modern cinematography, and he also patented inventions involving photography, x-rays, printing and airships.

  45. Hans Albrecht Bethe, who held a fellowship at the University of Bristol in 1934, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 1967 ‘for his contribution to the theory of nuclear reactions, especially his discoveries concerning the energy production in stars’.

  46. The National Cycle Network Centre, part of Sustrans, was founded in Bristol in 1977 and works towards a future in which people will travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment.

  47. The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts supports FutureLab at Bristol’s Watershed Media Centre, a consortium of some of the UK’s top companies in the fields of software, hardware and the creative industries who are passionate about transforming the way people learn.

  48. Sir William Ramsay, who was awarded the Nobel Prize 1904 ‘in recognition of his services in the discovery of the inert gaseous elements in air, and his determination of their place in the periodic system’, was Principal and Professor of Chemistry at University College, Bristol from 1880–87.

  49. Scientists at the University of Bath have invented a material which stores and releases hydrogen at room temperature, promising to help make hydrogen power a viable clean technology for the future.

  50. In the 1960s Filton was home to one of the two final assembly plants for components used in the Anglo-French Concorde project, and Rolls-Royce, Filton jointly manufactured the supersonic airliner’s Rolls-Royce/ Snecma 593 engines.

  51. Caroline Herschel of Bath was the first woman scientist and astronomer to be elected to the Royal Society and her brother William, using a telescope of his own design, discovered the planet Uranus in 1781.

  52. Arkive, an initiative of the Wildscreen Trust in Bristol, is the Noah’s Ark for the 21st century, bringing together the world’s finest wildlife films, photographs and sound recordings via its free website www.arkive.org.

  53. The Quantum Computation and Information group at the University of Bristol, is interested in all theoretical aspects of the new and expanding field of quantum information science and in quantum optical experiments.

  54. A camera obscura was set up in The Observatory on Clifton Downs in 1829 in which visitors, according to the publicity material, could experience a multi-dimensional view of ‘the waving of the foliage and the coming and going of ships’.

  55. The University of Bath has developed out of the former Bristol College of Science and Technology.

  56. The Bat Ecology and Bioacoustics Lab at the University of Bristol conducts research on the ecology, behaviour and conservation biology of bats.

  57. The Forensic Science Society has recently accredited all four main Forensic Science Degrees at the University of the West of England making the university one of the top providers of Forensic Science education in the UK.

  58. The bottling of water from the spa at Hot Wells contributed to growth of Bristol’s glass industry in the eighteenth century when there were at least 15 glass houses in the city, some operating several furnaces.

  59. The diversion of 2,400 feet of the River Frome in the thirteenth century to provide more quays in the centre of Bristol was one of the most remarkable feats of civil engineering of its time.

  60. Sir Nevill Francis Mott, who was made chair of theoretical physics at the University of Bristol in 1933, was awarded a third share of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1977 ‘for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems’.

  61. The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, which is still active in the city, was founded in 1824 with the aim of furthering ‘the advancement of literature, science and art’.

  62. Founded in 1993 and with an active client list of over 400 companies worldwide, the Bristol Colloid Centre at the University of Bristol provides solutions for formulations and processing problems for companies worldwide.

  63. The University of the West of England’s Innovate eMedia Incubator at Watershed Media Centre, focuses on the potential for electronic media, linking high-tech managed office and meeting space with advice and mentoring from financial and digital media experts.

  64. In 1844, Henry Hawes Fox patented his iron and concrete floor, as used in his private sanatorium on the outskirts of Bristol, thus demonstrating one of the first applications of reinforced concrete.

  65. SPark, The Bristol & Bath Science Park – a partnership between the South West RDA, the University of Bristol, University of Bath and the University of the West of England – is expected to play a key role in nurturing high value knowledge-based industries in South West England.

  66. The Bristol Biogeochemistry Research Centre is an interdisciplinary venture that brings together researchers from a number of departments within the University of Bristol to address cutting edge questions in Earth System Science involving atmosphere/biosphere/geosphere interactions.

  67. By the late nineteenth century, the heavily industrialized area around Crew’s Hole on the River Avon included in close proximity Conham Chemical Company, Wm Butler’s Tar Works, and Stone and Tinson’s Muriate of Ammonia Works creating vast amounts of smoke and fumes from over 20 chimneys.

  68. Physicists at the universities of Bath, Bristol and Leeds have recently discovered a way to precisely control the pattern of magnetic fields in thin magnetic films, which can be used to store information.

  69. The Filton facilities of Rolls-Royce, at the forefront of aerospace development since the earliest days of manned flight, design, develop, manufacture and support some of the most sophisticated military engine products in the world.

  70. The Ecohome next to Bristol’s CREATE Centre is a purpose-built show house full of ideas for sustainable living and building.

  71. The Centre for Research in Biomedicine at the University of the West of England is investigating the possible adverse effects of new drugs using cell culture models.

  72. The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases NHS Foundation Trust is a specialist hospital in the centre of Bath with an international reputation for research and expertise in complex rehabilitation and rheumatology.

  73. Forging close links with the pharmaceutical industry, members of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Bristol are CEOs of the spin-out companies Lectus Therapeutics Limited and Ascend Biotechnology Ltd.

  74. South West England is recognised as the European centre of semiconductor design and the leading companies with offices in and around Bristol include Broadcom Corporation, ClearSpeed Technology, Icera Inc and Quadrics Ltd.

  75. On 5 December 1958, Queen Elizabeth II made Britains first Subscriber Trunk Dialling call when she rang the Lord Provost in Edinburgh from Bristol’s Central Telephone Exchange.

  76. The University of Bristol’s Langford House, situated 14 miles south of the city, is the base for teaching and welfare research in the field of clinical veterinary science.

  77. The Museum of Bath at Work is based in the offices and shop of a Victorian engineering business that later added an aerated water manufactory that produced drinks called Orange Champagne, Hot Tom, Bath Punch and Cherry Ciderette.

  78. The South West Science and Industry Council, with a secretariat office based in Bristol, has recently been established to promote a stronger understanding of the contribution science and technology can make to the economy of the region and improve the dialogue between key stakeholders from the business and academic communities.

  79. Professor Kathy Sykes holds the Collier Chair in Public Engagement in Science and Engineering in the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Bristol, a permanent post where her work is mostly aimed at changing cultures to help scientists and policy-makers find better ways of listening to other people’s perspectives.

  80. Institute of Physics Publishing in Bristol, a not for profit publisher wholly owned by the Institute of Physics, is one of the largest and most dynamic publishers of physics information in the world.

  81. With 400 silicon designers based in the city-region – one of the highest concentrations of designers in Europe – the Bristol Silicon Network provides a valuable forum for the exchange of ideas.

  82. Carboniferous limestone created coalfields at Kingswood and Easton, which contributed to Bristol’s prosperity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, providing fuel for the city’s soap-making, brewing, glass and pottery industries.

  83. The Health Protection Agency South West Regional Laboratory, housed in sites in Bristol and Bath, provides a comprehensive diagnostic microbiology service to the United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust and surrounding Primary Care Trusts, and the Royal United Hospital NHS Trust in Bath .

  84. The Bristol Brass Company began a copper smelting business in the Crew’s Hole area of Bristol around 1810.

  85. The BioMed Image Archive, hosted by the University of Bristol, is an online collection of about 8,000 medical, dental, and veterinary images for use in learning, teaching and research.

  86. Elizabeth Backwell, the first woman to be enrolled on the British Medical Register and a campaigner for the reform of the medical profession, was born in Bristol.

  87. The Bristol Biodiversity Action Partnership is a partnership of local conservation organisations working to support and provide inspiration for local conservation projects, events and activities, and to hampion and promote local biodiversity.

  88. Bristol-born Professor Colin Pillinger led the Beagle 2 probe project to Mars.

  89. The Bristol Centre for Applied Nonlinear Mathematics is an EPSRC funded research programme that addresses the mathematical themes of the Bristol Laboratory for Advanced Dynamics Engineering (BLADE) and the engineering challenges of real-time dynamic substructuring.

  90. The area around Bristol and Bath has been called ‘the cradle of English geology’ and the geological collection at Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery is one of the most significant in the country.

  91. Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby, was born to a couple from Easton in 1978.

  92. The Bristol Heart Institute at the University of Bristol aims to foster local, national and international multi-disciplinary cardiovascular, basic and applied research.

  93. HP Labs Bristol, which opened in 1983, is Hewlett Packard’s second-largest central research laboratory and is among the premier corporate research labs in Europe, specialising in utility computing, computer security, the Semantic Web, quantum cryptography, digital imaging, media and publishing, mobility and display technologies.

  94. Bristol’s famous Blue Glass was created in the seventeenth century by adding cobalt oxide, imported from Saxony, to the glass-making process.

  95. The International Journal of Epidemiology, a key journal in the field of epidemiology and public health, is edited at the Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, which is a leading centre for epidemiology, health services research and public health in the UK.

  96. In 1804, Dr Edward Long Fox built a large house in Brislington for the humane medical treatment of the insane, in reaction to the existing barbarities at asylums such as Bedlam.

  97. Geochemical and hydrogeological evidence shows that the thermal springs at Bath, the only naturally-occurring hot springs in the UK, originate from the Mendip Hills.

  98. The Department of Neurosurgery at Frenchay Hospital has a national and international reputation, being at the forefront of technical advances.

  99. In 1831 bones belonging to Thecodontosaurus Antiquus, also known as the Bristol Dinosaur, were discovered in a quarry on Durdham Down.

  100. Avonmouth became the centre of the British chemical warfare manufacturing drive in 1917, producing 20 tons of mustard gas a day.

Extras: The massive Bristol Brabazon, the world’s biggest civil airliner at the time, made its maiden flight at Filton on 4 September 1949.



Nipper, the dog whose image was registered as the “His Master’s Voice” trademark in 1900 by Emile Berliner, the inventor of the flat disc record, was born in Bristol in 1884.







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