Spinning Yarns

Introspection is something of a feature of our lives in 2020; never mind the trajectory of the global pandemic and the fate of the planet, how did we each, individually start out from our distant personal origins to arrive at this curious point in time and space? So we’ve asked four scholars, scientists and seekers of a better world: What’s keeping you off the streets, and up at night?

The unsurprising answer is that a life of enquiry is never short of things to do! Throughout Victoria’s 2020 pandemic lockdowns, our speakers have dauntlessly continued their labours, producing scientific research and products for the public good, campaigning for a brighter future informed by scientific knowledge, or dutifully preserving the beautiful legacy of scientific instrumentation from earlier times, holding something of the story of long-gone people rising to the challenges of their own times.

Join us for four, short presentations from four very different Councillors of the Royal Society of Victoria, variously taking us through earlier times, their passion projects of today and concerns for tomorrow.


Function, Precision and Beauty: Finding and Preserving the Instruments of Ludwig Oertling – Mrs Nicola Williams

I was a lecturer in chemistry at Monash in the 1980s, during the time when university governance was changing from a collegial to a business model. One result was that anything that didn’t earn money was considered not worth keeping, and this included old instruments and glassware. I’d been interested in historical instruments for some years, so I began to collect the instruments which were being thrown out ‘as the space was needed.’

There and Back Again: My Roundabout Path to Seasonal Prediction (and why I love it) – Dr Catherine de Burgh-Day

My academic education started with a desire to study Meteorology, culminated in a PhD in Astrophysics, and then led to me working at the Bureau of Meteorology. It may seem like it was a bit of a detour, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and it turns out Astrophysics and Seasonal prediction have a lot in common! I’m going to give you a brief history of my still-short career, and also tell you about what I work on now: Everything to do with predicting the conditions in the upcoming weeks and seasons, from developing the models and science through to talking to farmers about what they need to know on the ground. I hope that by the end of this you’ll see why every change in direction I took along the way is one I am glad I did, and each one taught me things I bring to the table at the BoM every day.

Rob GellWhat Keeps Me Up at Night – Mr Rob Gell

Familiar to many as a television presenter of Victoria’s weather for many years, Rob is today a director of three companies working to deliver positive sustainability outcomes. They are all exploring new technology opportunities in environmental monitoring, energy management and water conservation: Attentis® has developed Australia’s first real-time integrated environmental sensor network operating at regional scale; ReThink Sustainability offers range of sustainability advisory services, particularly in energy efficiency and management; and Circular Things has developed the Eco Water Wall, an innovative water tank design.

David WalkerLoose Ends, and Going Round in Circles: A Life [Good] in Medical Research – Professor David Walker

Professor David Walker is a physiologist with a long interest in fetal and neonatal development. His research has become centred on perinatal brain damage and the causes of cerebral palsy. Previously situated with the Hudson Institute and now working with RMIT’s School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, David’s major research questions are around the basic chemical energy system employed by all body cells.

A part of the RSV’s 2020 contribution to the Inspiring Victoria program. In light of COVID-19 restrictions, this meeting will be conducted online as a Zoom webinar, with the presentations pre-filmed and our speakers answering questions from RSV members in the webinar (invitations to register are sent to members via email and are also listed on the Society’s membership page). The webinar will also be livestreamed via the Society’s Facebook site – please tune in at the allotted time to follow the proceedings and contribute your questions and comments.