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

How true is the saying ‘You are what you eat’? Humans have always been interested in how the food we eat can impact our health and wellbeing. Throughout history there have been food fads and trends. Whilst there is health advice to eat your ‘five-a-day’ and the surge in people adopting a plant-based diet has not always led to healthier eating patterns.

There is a distinguished history of nutrition research at Newcastle University. Our research has developed a diet which can reverse type 2 diabetes, influenced World Health Organisation guidance on sugar intake developed the UK national diet assessment tool and we have campaigned for free school meals for all key stage 1 children. Join Bernard Corfe, Professor of Human Health and Nutrition, and fellow academics from our Faculty of Medical Science to hear about their latest research.

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

Wednesday 25 January 2023, 5.00-6.00pm

Sports Science researchers in our Faculty of Medical Sciences explore the effects of exercise in everyone from young children, through to adults and elite athletes and sports teams like Newcastle Falcons and Newcastle Eagles. The NHS recommends that children and adults try to be physically active every day but how does exercise and being active have an impact on our health and wellbeing?

Our research explores such questions as how can exercise strengthen our immune system and help our bodies to fight diseases like cancer; how exercise builds strong muscles and bones to keep us healthy as we age and how can we help athletes recover more quickly after competing. Join our Sports Science researchers for an interactive lecture to discover more about this fascinating area.

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)