Bringing physics to youDavid Elder Lectures

The David Elder Lecture series, public lectures on astronomy, is hosted by the Glasgow Science Centre in partnership with the University of Strathclyde.


The David Elder Lecture started in 1905 as a result of an endowment of 5,000 pounds made by Mrs Isabella Elder (nee Ure), Doctor of Law, to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College, later to become part of the University of Strathclyde. The scope of the endowment is the maintenance of "Lectures of Descriptive Astronomy" (to be known as the David Elder Lectures) in memory of David Elder, the father of her late husband, John Elder.

Both John and his father David were outstanding Glasgow engineers. Of John it has been said, "Perhaps no greater loss ever befell the leading industry of the Clyde than the premature death of John Elder in 1869"; and Mr John Napier, in a paper read before the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Glasgow in 1866, referred to John's distinguished father, David, in the following terms, "The history of so remarkable a man as David Elder must be interesting to many, on account of his connection with works which have made Glasgow and the Clyde notable, and given to his employer (Robert Napier) a fame which is known over the whole engineering world."

He goes on, "David Elder was born in Little Seggie, near Kinross in 1785. From his earliest years, he evinced a genius for mathematical studies, and continued to master, without assistance, Simson's Euclid and a separate work on Algebra, translated from the French, which he walked 18 miles to procure. He studied the principles of mechanics and hydraulics by watching the workings of old water-wheels in the surrounding mills. In 1817, he came to Glasgow to practice as a mechanical engineer and millwright. His energy and ingenuity speedily procured his advancement, and he achieved considerable fame as an inventor and design engineer with Robert Napier's famous engineering work in Glasgow."

David Elder is regarded as the father of marine engineering on the Clyde, and you can find more fascinating information in Memories and Portraits of 100 Glasgow Men.

The first series of David Elder Lectures was given in 1905/06 at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College. Since the early seventies, the David Elder Lecture has been organised by the Department of Physics of the University of Strathclyde.

Starting in 2015, a partnership between the Glasgow Science Centre and the University of Strathclyde has begun a regular monthly programme of talks running over the winter months, from September to March each year. The David Elder lecture series presents a line-up of talks from expert astronomers at the cutting edge of their fields of research.

Here are some of the distinguished lecturers who have presented the David Elder lecture:

More information


  • 8 September 2023 - Dr. Jarita Holbook - Astronomy in Your Culture & Society
  • 26 October 2023 - Dr Alfredo Carpineti - Invisible Rainbows: The Universe Beyond Our Senses
  • 22 November 2023 - Dr. David McKee - Light In the Polar Night
  • 24 January 2024 - Prof. Andy Lawrence - Is Astronomy Useless? Why the sky matters and how we might lose it
  • 22 February 2024 - Prof. Michele Dougherty - JUICE - the Mission to Jupiter's Icy Moons
  • 25 March 2024 - Prof. Chris Lintott - Our Accidental Universe: Stories of Discovery from Asteroids to Aliens

  • 28 March 2024 - Prof. Sir James Hough OBE – Ripples from the Dark Side of the Universe - A Bright Future Ahead


  • Dr. Hannah Wakeford, Diving Through Exoplanet Atmospheres 22 September 2022
  • Prof Lewis Dartnell, Origins: How the Earth Made Us, 26 October 2022
  • Andy Saunders, Apollo Remastered, 24 November 2022
  • Dr. Daniel Oi, Towards the Space Quantum Internet, 22 February 2023
  • Dr. Rita Tojeir, Mapping the Universe 22 March 2023


  • Dr. Ben Hamlington, Using satellites to understand changing sea leavels, 7 October 2021
  • Prof. Mike Brown, Planet Nine from Outer Space, 23 November 2021
  • Dr Alice Gorman, Archaeology on the Moon, 27 Jan 2022
  • Prof Martin Hendry, Einstein’s Universe: the dawn, and exciting future, of gravitational-wave astronomy, 24 February 2022
  • Dr Sheila Kanani MBE, Cassini Huygens and the Lord of The Rings, 30 March 2022


  • Andrea Boyd, International Space Station Flight Control, 25 Setember 2019
  • Dr Brooke Simmons, Black Holes, Exoplanets, and Hurricanes: Making the next generation of discoveries, 29 October 2019
  • Dr Beth Biller, Weird New Worlds 27 November 2019
  • Astrid Werkmeiste,  Satellite Applications: Bringing Space Down to Earth, 29 January 2020
  • Prof. Philippa Browning, Solar Flares: The most energetic explosions in the solar system, 26 February 2020


  • Marcus Chown, The Day Without a Yesterday, 27th February 2019
  • Prof. ​Mark McCaughrean, "Once Explorers, Always Explorers", 30th January 2019
  • Wally Funk and Sue Nelson, The Mercury 13 and the Extraordinary Story of a Female Aviation Pioneer, January 2019
  • Dallas Campbell, Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet, 28th November 2018
  • Markus Nordberg, Connecting the Worlds of Micro to Macro: from Open Science to Open Innovation — CERN as a Case, 31st October 2018
  • Leo Hollberg, Space, Time and Quantum Clocks, 26th September 2018 


  • Prof. Lyndsay Fletcher, Living with a Star, 8th May 2018
  • Prof. Matt Griffin, Seeing the Invisible Universe: Infrared Astronomy from Space, 28th Mar 2018
  • Prof. Sheila Rowan, Gravitational waves – turning on the soundtrack to the Universe, 31st Jan 2018
  • Prof. John Brown, Comets – bringers of death, bringers of life, and cosmic probes, 29th Nov 2017
  • Tania Johnston, Reaching New Heights in Astronomy, 25th Oct 2017
  • Steve Owens, Universe or Multiverse?, 27th Sep 2017
  • Prof. Martin Hendry, Exploring The Dark Side of the Universe, 15th Jun 2017



  • Dr Pippa Goldschmidt, Writing in the Stars: A Literary Journey Through the Cosmos, 3rd March 2016
  • Dr Marek Kukula (Royal Observatory, Greenwich), The Intimate Universe, 4th February 2016
  • Prof. Massimiliano Vasile (Space Systems Engineering, University of Strathclyde), Stardust, 3rd December 2015
  • Dr Bernie Fanaroff (South African Square Kilometre Array), The Unseen Cosmos, 17th November 2015
  • Prof. Tim O’Brien (University of Manchester and Jodrell Bank's Centre for Astrophysics), Making Contact – The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), 10th June 2015


  • General Jean-François Clervoy (ESA Astronaut Corps), Up, Up and Way! What it takes to be an Astronaut, 28th March


  • Prof Chris Collins (Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University), 18th May


  • Prof Monica Grady (The Open University), 14th May


  • Prof Gerry Gilmore (University of Cambridge), The Origin and Future of the Universe, 7th March


  • Prof John Zarnecki (Open University), The Huygens Probe at Titan, 3rd May


  • Prof Keith Horne (University of St Andrews), The Quest for Extrasolar Planets, 13th June


  • Drs Bonnie J. Dunbar, Neal Pellis, and Chuck Lloyd, NASA: Space Exploration and Research


  • Heather Reid, Weather Forecasts in the 21st Century


  • Prof Carl Murray, Chaotic Clockwork: Order and Disorder in the Solar System


  • Prof Steven Miller, The Great Crash of 1994: Comet Shoemaker-Levy-9's Fatal Encounter with Jupiter


  • Prof Heather Cooper, ET - Please Phone Earth