Monday, 28 March 2011

New Lay Canon for Ripon

Congratulations to Dr Colin Harrison CBE on being made a lay canon of Ripon cathedral. It is very good to have among the college of canons someone who brings the perspective of a scientist. Since his retirement as a global Research and Maunfacturing Dirctor for ICI, in 2007, Colin has been a member of the Engineering and Physical and Sciences Research Council, Chair of the national Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network and Director of the Centre for Process Innovation. (What did he do before he was retired?!) This work, which promotes the transfer of the insights and techniques of science into products and services, will contribute to the establishing of the government's recently announced new Technology Innovation Centres. 

The dialogue between faith and science is so often focused around the 'glamorous' sciences to do with things like cosmology or genetic engineering. It is very good to be reminded of the central place of the physical sciences in contributing to innovations which affect our everday lives and which equally remind us of the ingenuity of the human mind and the wonder of the created order, though they are often taken for granted. I hope that, as well continuing to offer his considerable skills in serving the life of the cathedral, Colin will be able to share some of his interests in science with us as a community. Most scientists are shaped early and need inspiring role models to open their eyes to what is possible. We have had wedding shows and medieval fayres and oral history workshops at the cathedral - how about a science and technology event? After all, the great medieval cathedrals were often places of engineering innovation (first flying butresses at Durham) and associated with centres of healing (the leper hospital at Ely) and education in the science of the day (the carvings at Chartres cathedral include pagan scientists, the  newly discovered plants of the day and a throne on which Christ is seated, carved according to the principles of Euclid's geometry. Chartres was built during a period of relative harmony and creative interaction between the church and the sciences.) 

A fascinating insight into the relationship between gothic cathedrals and science can be seen on

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