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Athene Donald

Michael Berkeley's guest is physicist Athene Donald. Her musical choices including works by Janacek, Bach, Mozart and Lili Boulanger.

Dame Athene Donald is one of our leading physicists, and an outstanding role model and campaigner for women in science. She is Master of Churchill College, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge, and as the new head of the British Science Association, she has already made waves suggesting that girls should be given Meccano in preference to Barbie dolls to encourage them into science.

It's physics with a clear practical end - the physics of the everyday - which is her passion. Her expertise lies in developing techniques to study 'soft' materials: the way paint particles stick together, or what happens to things when you cook them, or more recently, the generic way protein molecules stick together, which, for some very specific proteins, is the process which underlies Alzheimer's disease. A life-long promoter of women in science, she is a recipient of the L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science in Europe and writes a popular and entertaining blog about science, women, the wider world, and sometimes music too.

A talented viola player, she considered a career in music as a teenager, and her choice of music reflects her continued love of the instrument: Bach's 6th Brandenburg Concerto, Janacek's Second String Quartet, known as 'Intimate Letters', and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola which she played with her husband, a mathematician - and violinist.

Keen to promote women in music as well as women in science, she's also chosen music by the French composer Lili Boulanger.

Producer: Jane Greenwood

A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 3.

Available now

34 minutes

Music Played

  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Brandenburg Concerto no.6 in B flat major, BWV1051 (1st mvt)

    Orchestra: The English Concert. Conductor: Trevor Pinnock.
  • Thomas Tomkins

    When David Heard

    Choir: Clare College, Cambridge Choir. Conductor: Timothy Brown.
  • Leos Janáček

    String Quartet no.2 (Intimate Letters) (2nd mvt: Adagio)

    Ensemble: Emerson String Quartet.
  • Lili Boulanger

    Psalm 130 (Du fond de l'abime)

    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Choir: Monteverdi Choir.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K.364 (1st mvt: Allegro maestoso)

    Performer: Itzhak Perlman. Performer: Pinchas Zukerman. Orchestra: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Zubin Mehta.
  • Johannes Brahms

    Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras (Ein Deutches Requiem)

    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Hickox. Choir: London Symphony Chorus.
  • Antonín Dvořák

    Piano Quintet in A major, Op.81 (3rd mvt: Scherzo)

    Performer: Sir András Schiff. Ensemble: Panochovo kvarteto.


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