When I was asked to participate in the 2020 Bloomsbury Festival, with the Friends of St George’s Gardens, I was delighted to have an opportunity to spread the word about William Nicholson (1753-1815) and his interesting life.
I was especially happy when the FoSGG team proposed hiring an actor to play Mr Nicholson, and had great fun writing the script … up to the point when Nicholson’s interests turned to science.
It was easy to paint a vivid picture of life at sea with the East India Company, the theatrical shenanigans with Thomas Holcroft and the revolutionary and political events of that period.
But communicating about Nicholson’s experiments and the achievement of splitting water (with his colleague Anthony Carlisle) was a different matter.
I’ll confess to being a late-bloomer when it comes to any interest in science. My younger self would be astonished to learn that one day I might be interested about the history of science – nevermind reading and writing about it. I’m certainly not equipped to talk or even demonstrate it.
But just around the corner from St George’s Gardens is University College London, which was also involved with the Bloomsbury Festival, and which happens to have an electrochemistry outreach group. Several PhD students were keen to spread the word about the future of clean energy and the potential for hydrogen fuel cells – a technology which can trace its history in a direct line to Nicholson & Carlisle’s experiment in May 1800 in the house in Soho Square. (See this guest blog from Alice Llewellyn- How the discovery of electrolysis has changed the future’s energy landscape).
The UCL team comprised Alice Llewellyn, Harry Michael, Keenan Smith and Zahra Rana as presenters, and Katrina Mazloomian as videographer. They brought the science to life in a wonderfully engaging way.
This extract from ‘In Conversation with Mr Nicholson’ is now on the Nicholson’s Journal YouTube account and shows Mr Nicholson (played by Julian Date) talking to the PhD students as they:
This is followed by a Q&A session recorded from the online event. With questions including:
Thankfully our team of experts from UCL answered these questions most interestingly, and in plain English as you can see on the second of two videos from the Bloomsbury Festival.
Click here to watch:
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