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.

2024 Holmes Memorial Lectures

The 2024 Holmes Lectures were given in January by researchers from Newcastle University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences and School of Computing. You can watch the recordings below.

Lecture 1: Humans: Can you learn to train your brain?

Wednesday 17 January 2024
With Dr Yuki Kikuchi, Lecturer in Sensory, Perceptual and Cognitive Neuroscience and Ben Slater, Post Graduate Researcher, Biosciences

Our brains are profoundly rhythmic, much like a great piece of music. In this lecture, researchers from the Faculty of Medical Sciences will explore how our brains process sounds and why this is important. We will delve into questions such as how brain rhythms help us learn and remember things more effectively, like learning a new language or revising for an exam, and how training in brain rhythms can be beneficial.

Lecture 2: Evolving video game technology: Humans vs artificial intelligence (who will win?)

Wednesday 24 January 2024
With Professor Graham Morgan, Video Game Technology Researcher

Get ready for an epic showdown you won't want to miss! In this lecture, researchers from the School of Computing explore a mind-blowing world where AI makes your games more lifelike and is even starting to develop them. AI bots are getting so good they beat human world champions. So, who's the real MVP in this gaming universe? Is it us, the gamers, or the ever-evolving AI? Whether you're a casual gamer or dreaming of a career in game development, this lecture will give you a look into a future where humans and AI are in an epic battle for gaming supremacy. Find out who will take the crown: Humans or AI?

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)