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Reconstructing Broken Bodies: From Industrial Warfare to Industrial Engineered Tissues

zclef785 July 2014

An illuminating and occasionally gruesome lecture for a non-medic unused to the visual realities of war, the third of the series UCL Lunch Hour Lectures on Tour marking the centenary of the First World War tackled a rarely discussed aspect of the aftermath of trench warfare.

Tonk's, Portrait of a Wounded Soldier Before Treatment Credit: UCL Art Museum

Henry Tonks, Portrait of a Wounded
Soldier Before Treatment

Credit: UCL Art Museum

The idea of the fabrication of living tissues to repair injuries is well publicised in the media today, from growing an ear on the back of a mouse, to full face transplants.

However, the development of reconstructive techniques was largely precipitated by the industrial scale of conflict in WW1.

Sadly, Professor Robert Brown (UCL Surgical Science) was unable to attend, so we were left in the capable hands of Colin Hopper (UCL Eastman Dental Institute) who delivered both the historical and medical sides of the lecture with distinctive candour.

Early medical advances

I was unconvinced that a GCSE in Biology would get me through the finer points of tissue fabrication, so it was a relief that we began with the historical context of medical advances during military conflicts since the early 1800s.

The fact that disease was responsible for a large number of deaths during the wars between 1804-15 was hardly a surprise, but the scale of the death–nearly 266,000 of the 311,806 deaths (85%) in the Army and Navy–showed just how much of an impact developments in medicine made to survival rates in future conflicts.

Changes in strategy and weaponry in WW1 caused a significant increase in the number of soldiers who sustained head and limb injuries, yet over 92% of wounded British soldiers evacuated to British medical camps survived. Some fairly horrific slides of facial injuries from more recent Iraqi and Libyan conflicts demonstrated the consequences of the types of weaponry used a hundred years earlier. Major General Henry Shrapnel has a lot to answer for.

As a head and neck surgeon, Colin was interested to know how much the audience thought a person needed of their face to survive. Drawing a line running from the top of the head and behind the ears with his hand, he revealed that anything below that line is an “optional extra”–who needs frontal lobes?

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Sex and the Somme

Ben Stevens H P Stevens26 June 2014

As the First World War centenary commemorations continue apace, there is a risk that inconvenient truths about the war will be quietly airbrushed from the official record.

One particular area that some may like to ignore is the use of brothels by British troops or ‘Tommies’ while in France and Belgium.

UCL Media Services © University College London

UCL Media Services © University College London

Dr Clare Makepeace (UCL History) made it the focus of her lecture ‘Sex and the Somme’ on 18 June, which was the first in a new series of First World War –themed Lunch Hour Lectures on Tour at the Guardian’s London offices.

She began by explaining how when the Tommies set off, each one was dispatched with a message from Lord Kitchener folded into their pay books. In it, he reminded them that the honour of the British Army depended on their conduct and warned them to “be on guard against excesses” especially “temptations both in wine and women” and to “avoid any intimacy”. (more…)

Is it something I said? Scurrilous or taboo language

uclzean25 June 2014

The penultimate event of UCL’s One Day in the City saw John Sutherland (Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature at UCL) chair a debate on scurrilous or taboo language with Will Self, Tim Clare and Melanie Abrahams, who stood in for the absent Sunday Times writer, India Knight.

one day in the city

Sutherland began by introducing Will Self as “a novelist and presenter”, to which Self replied: “Presenter? What the fuck are you talking about?”

Sutherland continued, suggesting that we are “rediscovering linguistic taboo” and that Freud had written that all language begins with it: “It is uncanny and unclean”.

He explained that during his lifetime – Sutherland was born in 1938 – the diachronic alteration of language had been dramatic, but that it was also vital to look at language synchronically. Diachronic change being linguistic alteration over time and synchronic, meaning the study of language at one point in history.

The end of the 1930s, for example, saw the publication of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Niggers a title that was synchronically acceptable. By the 1970s, this had changed to And then there were none…, which alluded to a nursery rhyme in the novel. This was a notable diachronic change.

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Professional Services Conference

uclzean24 June 2014

The inaugural Professional Services Conference took place on Monday, 16 June. The afternoon consisted of a series of presentations and panel discussions followed by an awards ceremony for staff and teams nominated by their colleagues across the university.

Rex Knight, Vice-Provost (Operations), introduced the conference as a “celebration of work going on across the university”. Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education) said: “it’s all too easy for academic events to take precedent. This is an opportunity to say thank you to the unsung aspects of the institution.”

Empowered - Emma Todd and Alice Chilver (UCL Bartlett)

Empowered – Emma Todd and Alice Chilver (UCL Bartlett)

Over the past decade, there has been a 20% increase in staff and a 16% increase in student numbers and Knight continued “thanks to your extraordinary professionalism all would not be as it is without what you do”.

There were then presentations from Emma Todd and Alice Chilver (UCL Bartlett), co-founders of Astrea, the professional women’s network at UCL. Dr. Debbie Challis spoke about the exhibition, A Fusion of Worlds, at the Petrie Museum and funded by UCL Grand Challenges.

Finally, Bob Carey discussed the Strategic Leadership Programme and Steve Rowalt and Kate Cheney delivered their presentation on the UCL Masterplan 2011, which has overseen the current transformation of the Cruciform Hub – @ucl_crucitwit.

The Professional Services Awards consisted of five categories with nominations coming from a diverse range of staff across the university. Emma Todd, Strategic Communications Manager and Alice Chilver, Business Development Manager at the UCL Bartlett, won the ‘Empowered… confident and enabling’ award for their work in setting up Astrea. (more…)