Terry Pratchett’s Public Interview, Sir David Attenborough Launches the New Centre for Biodiversity and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell Opens the New Astronomy Observatory

Posted on: 18 December 2008

The recipients of the honorary degrees at the Winter commencements ceremony, author, Terry Pratchett, naturalist, Sir David Attenborough and astrophysicist, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, engaged in a number of College and public events during their stay at Trinity.

The British fantasy, science fiction, and children’s author, Terry Pratchett,   best known for his popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels gave a public interview to a packed Public Theatre on December 13th last, where more than 450  dedicated followers  of the renowned author were in attendance. The Dean of Research, Dr David Lloyd, also an avid fan of the author’s chaired the interview which was followed by a reception in the Long Room.

Sir David Attenborough launched the new Centre for Biodiversity and Sustainable Development at the School of Natural Sciences and met with students of the MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation.  The  renowned broadcaster and naturalist was also shown a number of specimens in the  Museum Building by  the Museum curator and senior lecturer in Geology, Dr  Patrick Wyse Jackson  and  Dr Martyn Linnie of the Department of Zoology, which  included the two giant Irish Deer skeletons which  became extinct just over 10,000 years ago.

Of particular interest and the focus of the geological specimens was the newly restored skeleton of the marine reptile Attenborosaurus conybeari (Sollas, 1881).  The Trinity specimen is a plaster cast of the original collected in  1880 from Charmouth.  It was destroyed during the Blitz in Bristol in 1940.  In 1950 the specimen was removed from the Museum Building during renovations and badly damaged.  For nearly sixty years it has been stored in pieces in the basement of the building, but during the last three months it has been restored and it will go on permanent display shortly.  The genus Attenborosaurus was named in Sir David’s honour in 1993 and is a 150 million year old plesiosaur that is characterised by having a long neck and large skull.  Sir David was able to examine the skeleton at close quarters.

Astrophysicist, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell also opened TCD’s School of Physics new teaching Astronomy Observatory. The observatory which was named after William Monck, the first person to successfully make photoelectric observations of the planets (and later the stars). Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first four radio pulsars is Professor of Physics at Open University performed the opening ceremony, and guest speaker Dr Ian Elliott, (retired from the Dunsink Observatory),  talked on Monck. The opening of the observatory containing optical, solar, and radio telescopes. marks the return of astronomical observations to TCD. The Dunsink Observatory was founded by a bequest from a former provost of TCD and one of the Directors was Sir William Rowan Hamilton.