The ‘RV Jones Lecture’ is an annual series of lectures by distinguished engineers and scientists named after R.V. Jones (Reginald Victor Jones), a British scientist and scientific military intelligence expert, who played a critical role in the defence of Britain during the Second World War. After the war he joined the University of Aberdeen as the Chair of Natural Philosophy, which he held until his retirement in 1981. He devoted much of his career to scientific instrument design and he was able to reach the absolute limits of what is physically measurable. Like most pioneering designers, he did not follow the recipe books, but effectively wrote them himself. He took a great interest in promoting public understanding of science and was renowned for his enthusiastic lectures and lively scientific demonstrations. Professor Jones awards included Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1942), Companion of the Order of the Bath (1946), Duddell Medal and Prize (1960), Fellowship of the Royal Society (1965), R.V. Jones Intelligence Award (1993) and Companion of Honour (1994). 

The lectures organised by the School of Engineering are intended to increase the public understanding of science in its broadest sense and to stimulate predominantly the academic and business community of the North East of Scotland. They usually held in the Kings College Conference Centre of the University of Aberdeen, but the forthcoming one on 10 December 2020, will be a virtual event due to COVID-19 restrictions. For further information please contact Professor Marian Wiercigroch, RV Lecture series convener.

Lectures can be viewed by clicking here.

Upcoming Lecture:

2020 – Professor Sir Jim McDonald BSc MSc PhD DSc CEng (University of Strathclyde) – Energy Systems for the 21st Century - The Drive for Net Zero.

The lecture will contextualise the drive for low carbon energy systems by first providing a brief history of UK energy system development and then highlighting the key low carbon technologies, in particular, wind, marine and storage will be discussed. Insights into evolving grid technologies and architectures, impact of data and new consumer ownership will be shared. Examples from developing countries on low carbon distributed and off-grids, and analogies in aero and marine electrical energy system applications will be discussed. The excitement of energy careers and the need for engineering skills, and "call to arms" for us all to accelerate into the energy transition, will conclude the talk.

Recent Lectures:

2019 – Professor Pete Smith FRSE FRS (University of Aberdeen) – Can We Engineer Our Way Out Of The Climate Change Crisis?

With stringent climate targets in place under the Paris Agreement, it appears that even aggressive and immediate mitigation actions may leave us short of the 2 and 1.5 degree targets. This means that, in addition to mitigation, we will also need to actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. A number of biology-based and engineering-based greenhouse gas removal options have been suggested.

2018 – Professor Colin McInness MBE FRSE FREng (University of Glasgow) – Space Resources: Engineering Beyond Planetary Boundaries.

With advances in robotics, automation and highly-efficient spacecraft propulsion, the prospect of accessing space resources is moving ever closer. This lecture will discuss the engineering requirements to utilise space resources, such as metal-rich near Earth asteroids, while speculating on the future large-scale engineering ventures they could enable. These include logistic support for crewed missions, clean energy from space and even long-term planetary climate engineering. The lecture will also consider other key questions: who owns asteroid resources and who regulates access to this new high frontier?

2017 – Professor Norman Fleck FREng FRS (University of Cambridge) – The Invention of New Materials.

Historically, after new materials were discovered they gave rise to a rapid change in lifestyle, for example the transition from the stone age to the bronze age, to the iron age and more recently to the steel age. The co-evolution of weapons and armour provides an excellent example of ‘materials-driven natural selection’. Over more recent history new materials have been invented in order meet a societal need or to generate a societal need. How is this done, and what is the best way of inventing new materials?

2016 – Professor Sir Michael Berry FRS (University of Bristol) – Nature's Optics and Our Understanding of Light.

Optical phenomena visible to everyone have been central to the development of, and abundantly illustrate, important concepts in science and mathematics. The phenomena considered include rainbows, sparkling reflections on water, mirages, green flashes, earthlight on the moon, glories, daylight, crystals, and the squint moon. The concepts include refraction, caustics (focal singularities of ray optics), wave interference, numerical experiments, mathematical asymptotics, dispersion, complex angular momentum (Regge poles), polarization singularities, Hamilton’s conical intersections of eigenvalues (‘Dirac points’), geometric phases, and visual illusions.

2015 – Professor Philip Nelson CBE FREng (University of Southampton) – Some New Approaches to Sound Production.

The evolution of the human auditory system has resulted in a remarkable capability to localise sources of sound. The fundamental cues that the auditory system uses have been well established for many years, although the full details of the neural processing involved are still far from being fully understood. The modern-day ability to digitally process acoustic signals opens up new possibilities for the generation of such illusions and recent developments on the production of “3D sound” will be described. Recent work will also be presented on the accurate reproduction of sound in space and time over extended volumes before confronting the practical challenges of improving the listening experience for consumers of audio material.

2014 – Professor Douglas Osheroff (1996 Nobel Prize Winner in Physics) – How Advances in Science are Made?

Douglas Osheroff who was born and raised in the town of Aberdeen, Washington, reveals how he became a Nobel Prize Winner, and what fascinates him about science and nature. From an early age young Douglas was fascinated by high voltage electricity and gunpowder. He spent his college years at the California Institute of Technology and gained his PhD at Cornell University in 1972, which is where he and colleagues David Lee and Robert Richardson discovered superfluidity in liquid Helium-3. Osheroff then spent 15 years at AT&T Bell Laboratories before joining Stanford University in 1987, where he became an award-winning teacher and twice chair of the Stanford Department of Physics.


Previous lectures: