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  1. Eminent geneticist Steve Jones to give talk on Alfred Russel Wallace

    Polly March

    This year marks 100 years since the death of one of Charles Darwin's lesser-known contemporaries - Alfred Russel Wallace.

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  2. The Story of Tŷ Hapus

    Carolyn Hitt

    The Story of Tŷ Hapus traces a year in the life of a remarkable place in Wales – the only centre of its kind in the whole of the UK which caters for younger people with dementia.

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  3. Dr William Price and the beginnings of cremation

    Phil Carradice

    Wales has had its fair share of eccentrics over the years but none was more bizarre or more flamboyant than the mercurial and fascinating Dr William Price of Llantrisant. This Chartist and republican, a man who ate no meat, drank mainly champagne, eschewed the wearing of socks and prescribed a vegetarian diet for his patients instead of medicine, has a much more significant claim to fame, however. For this was the man who, effectively, opened the way for legalised cremation in Britain. Born on 4 March 1800 at Rudry near Caerphilly, Price was the fifth child of the Rev William Price. His father wanted William to enter the church but the young man had different ambitions. He wanted to become a doctor and was, accordingly, apprenticed to a local surgeon, Dr Evan Edwards. He was just 13 years of age and after a number of years, following the death of his father, managed to enroll himself at St Barts in London. Price was clearly a man of huge intellect. He passed his examinations in just 12 months and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons before the age of 22. After further study in anatomy and physiology he returned to Wales to live and work in 1821. In 1827 he moved to Nantgarw, just up the valley from Cardiff and became surgeon to the ironmaster Francis Crawshay. A strain of eccentricity, even of insanity, ran in his family and this quickly began to show itself in his behaviour. He dressed in a white tunic with green trousers and red waistcoat and developed a liking for outlandish costume, notably a fox-skin headdress with the legs and tails hanging down over his shoulders and back. His hair was worn long in plaits and, in these early years, he had the rather disconcerting habit of racing, stark naked, over the hills around Pontypridd. William Price had little time for many of the standard medical treatments of the day, things like bleeding and purging, believing that a vegetarian diet was far more important than anything else. He was dogmatic in his medical practice, refusing to treat patients who would not give up smoking. An advocate of what was, in effect, an early example of the health service - he believed that patients should pay him when they were well and he would then treat them when they fell ill - Price was elected as the private medical practitioner to a group of workers at the local chainworks. They paid him with a weekly deduction from their wages. Dr William Price was no ordinary man. He had little time for marriage, feeling that it was an institution that did little more than enslave women. He did believe, however, in free love. As if to prove his point he fathered several illegitimate children and fell out with church authorities over this issue on many occasions. He became fascinated by the old druidic rites and even held druidic ceremonies at the rocking stone outside Pontypridd. He even began to build a druidic temple in the area, thus infuriating the local Methodists who went as far as to accuse him of trespass. William Price was a supporter of Chartism, some accounts saying that he attended Chartist meetings in a cart pulled by a pair of goats. Having moved to Llantrisant, he was made leader of the Pontypridd and District group and, following the disaster of the Chartist march on Newport in 1839 was forced to flee to France. Legend declares that he left dressed as a woman and that a police officer even assisted him up the gangplank of his ship - unlikely but hugely entertaining. Price lived in Paris for several years before returning to the Pontypridd area in 1846. He again fled to the continent in 1860 when a warrant for his arrest - he had refused to pay a fine - was issued. This time his exile was for a further five years. Returning to Wales and to Ty'r Clettwr at Llantrisant, Price promptly installed his 16-year-old housekeeper, one Gwenllian Llewellyn, as his mistress. Despite his advanced age (he was then 83-years-old) he fathered a son by Gwenllian, naming him Iesu Grist, Welsh for Jesus Christ. When Iesu died in 1884, aged just five months, Price cremated his body on an open pyre in a field at Llantrisant. Whether the good doctor was opposed to the traditional act of Christian burial or whether he was more interested in the druidic rituals of the past, is not known. However, what is clear is that, dressed in his flowing druids robes, he timed the cremation to coincide with the conclusion of chapel services in the town. As might be expected, the local people were wild with indignation at what they saw as pure sacrilege. They attacked Price and were only prevented from assaulting Gwenllian by the pack of large dogs that Price kept at his home. William Price was arrested and charged. However, in a sensational trial, held in Cardiff, Justice Stephens acquitted Price, a judgement and a decision that led almost directly to the passing of the Cremation Act, thus making the burning of bodies legal in Britain. After fathering several more children, Dr William Price died on 23 January 1893. His body was cremated in front of many thousands of spectators - some estimates being as high as 20,000 - who flocked to Llantrisant to witness the event. Several tons of coal and wood were piled up underneath the corpse in order to make it burn more effectively. They say that all the pubs in Llantrisant ran dry on the day of that cremation. Price had organised everything, even selling tickets to the event - bizarre and outlandish, right to the end!

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  4. Techniquest celebrates 25 years

    Phil Carradice

    This November, Techniquest - one of Cardiff's best known and best loved visitor attractions - celebrates 25 years of existence. It is an amazing achievement for what is now the longest running purpose-built science centre in the United Kingdom. Techniquest is keen for children to engage with science Techniquest, the brainchild of Professor John Beetlestone and several other colleagues on the staff of Cardiff University, was founded in 1985. Wales, and Cardiff in particular, had always had its fair share of museums and art galleries, but an establishment specialising in science was something different. From the beginning Techniquest had the avowed intention of helping people from all walks of life - adults and, in particular, children - to engage with science and not view it as something alien or outside their knowledge and area of interest. Never intended to be a series of static exhibits in glass cases, this was to be a hands-on experience. The interactive exhibits and science programmes were meant to appeal to both eye and instinct, and to draw people into an exciting and innovative world. Techniquest was originally located in the centre of Cardiff The original site for Techniquest was in the centre of Cardiff, in the old gas showrooms opposite Cardiff Castle. This was only intended as a temporary home and in 1988, three years after its founding, Techniquest moved to Cardiff Bay. This new site was a prefabricated industrial complex and soon over 100 exhibits were open to the public. From this base Techniquest also began its programme of educational visits for schools. In 1988 Techniquest moved to Cardiff Bay In 1995 the centre was again on the move, this time locating to its present site. The firm of ABK Architects designed Techniquest around the core of an old heavy engineering factory and the first purpose-built science centre in the UK began its work in earnest. As well as offering a wide range of exhibits and experiences at its Cardiff base, Techniquest gradually developed and now also offers exhibits and science programmes to museums and visitor attractions around the world. Princess Diana and Princes William and Harry visited Techniquest in 1994. It is estimated that over 200,000 people visit Techniquest every year - and that's not counting the Wrexham branch of the enterprise. The hands-on, interactive nature of the centre provides a perfect learning environment for children and adults alike, so much so that in 1999 Techniquest exhibits were awarded Millennium Product Status by the Design Council of the UK. The centre also offers a planetarium and a science theatre for use by children during the school holidays. Wales has always had strong links with the field of science, breeding men such as the meteorologist Inigo Jones who emigrated to Australia in 1874 and became interested in the weather while working on the family farm in North Queensland. There are so many others, men like Evan Pierce, the doctor who fought a cholera outbreak in Denbigh and became medical advisor to Queen Victoria. Then there was Alfred Wallace, born in Usk. He was a contemporary of Charles Darwin and was actually acknowledged by Darwin as the co-founder of the theory of natural selection. Robert Recorde is well known and highly regarded as a mathematician, a man from humble beginnings in Tenby who published the first English language book on algebra and is now recognised as the man who invented the equals sign. In more modern times Dr Lyn Evans, born in Aberdare, recently became the leader of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern. Built by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, the collider lies beneath the French-Swiss border, its aim being to simulate and recreate the conditions that existed one fraction of a second after the "big bang" that brought life to the planet. Other Welsh scientists of note include people such as Sir Granville Beynon, operating in the field of physics of the ionosphere, Professor Diane Edwards (the investigation of fossil plants) and Dr Pam Lewis (nuclear magnetic resonance). There are many, many more. Techniquest, with its innovative and exhilarating approach to a subject that might otherwise appeal only to a limited few, has undoubtedly stimulated an interest right across the country. Twenty five years have been well spent - here's to the next! Keep up to date with all the latest news and events celebrating 25 years of Techniquest on their special anniversary website. Take a look at our Techniquest gallery on the BBC Wales website.

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  5. Thomas Pennant, natural history pioneer

    Phil Carradice

    Few people these days have ever heard the name Thomas Pennant but, in the second half of the 18th century, this remarkable and fascinating man was one of Britain's foremost naturalists and antiquarians. He ranked alongside men such as Gilbert White of Selbourne and, perhaps more importantly, was...

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  6. John Dee, magician to Queen Elizabeth

    Phil Carradice

    Of all the many Welsh men and women to have undoubtedly influenced the course of British life over the centuries, none is more mysterious than John Dee. Queen Elizabeth I believed in John Dee's magical powers A mathematician and teacher of navigation, an astrologer and astronomer, an ...

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  7. Dr Merlin Pryce and the discovery of penicillin

    Phil Carradice

    Most people remember Sir Alexander Fleming as the man who, on 3 September 1928, discovered penicillin. Yet the part played in the discovery by his friend and colleague Merlin Pryce, a Welshman from the Merthyr area, should never be underestimated. Indeed, there are many who say that it was Pr...

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