University Events

Holmes Lectures

Holmes Lectures for 10- to 14-year-olds

The Holmes Memorial Lectures are designed for 10- to 14-year-olds with the intention of fostering an interest in science.

2023 Holmes Memorial Lectures

The 2023 Holmes Lectures will be given by researchers from the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University. The lectures will explore how food, nutrition, sport and exercise can help keep you healthy for longer. Lectures will take place in the Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building.

Dates: 18 and 25 January 2023
Venue: Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building‌

Keeping healthy with sport and food (part 1):
An apple a day

Wednesday 18 January 2023, 5.00-6.00pm

Keeping healthy with sport and food (part 2):
Run for your life

Wednesday 25 January 2023, 5.00-6.00pm

For group bookings and school visits, please email the Public Lectures office at or telephone our booking voicemail line 0191 208 6136.

Past Holmes Memorial Lectures

Who was John H Holmes?

The annual John H Holmes lectures first took place at Newcastle University in 1937 and have covered a wide range of topics including sustainability, Forensic science, medical physics, chemistry and sports science. The talks form part of the INSIGHTS Public Lecture programme and are held every January.

John Henry Holmes (1857-1935) was an English electrical engineer, inventor and pioneer of electric lighting who invented the quick break light switch, the technology behind which remains the basis for modern wall mounted light switches.

John Henry Holmes was born in Newcastle on 6 June 1857 and grew up in Gateshead and then Jesmond. John attended the Friends School in Bootham, York, where he was taught the rudiments of science. At the age of 16, he won a place at the Durham College of Physical Science, later Armstrong College, now Newcastle University.

In 1880, Holmes attended a public demonstration of Joseph Swan's incandescent light bulb. This seemed to spark his interest in electric lighting, and he approached Swan on multiple occasions in hopes of becoming his apprentice.

John Henry Holmes and his brother Theodore founded J. H. Holmes & Co. in Shieldfield, Newcastle upon Tyne in 1883, their manufacturing company specialised in early motors, dynamos, switches, and lighting. The company was very active in the early proliferation of electric lighting, having installed Newcastle's first domestic electrical lighting into their father's house in Jesmond, and supplied installations throughout Europe and the British colonies and the United States. He invented the quick break light switch, the technology behind which remains the basis for modern wall mounted light switches, and his first experimental model is preserved at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.

Holmes went on to become a prolific inventor, drives for printing presses, train lighting sets, and portable ships’ searchlights which enabled the Suez Canal to be traversed by night for the first time. John Henry Holmes died in April 1935 at the age of 78 and is buried at Jesmond Old Cemetery.

Photograph of John Henry Holmes (Copyright: Newcastle Libraries, Local Studies)