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Your favourite lecturer at Bristol

Professor Powell on top of the HH Wills Physics Laboratory

Professor Gary Foster with his plant disease class in 2015

Professor John Hannay

27 January 2016

Until Monday 8 February, students and alumni can nominate their favourite Bristol lecturer for the Best of Bristol lecture series. Last month, we asked you for your suggestions, old and new, and were inundated with responses. Here are just a few of your favourites.

Susan Startin (BSc 1971) said: 'I was lucky enough to attend lectures by Professor Cecil Powell in my first year at Bristol. I was thrilled to have a Nobel Prize winner as one of my lecturers, and Professor Powell always seemed interested in us first-years. He even invited us all to his house at the end of the summer term, shortly before he went on holiday. I felt very privileged to have attended his lectures, if only for one year.'

Lucy Winchcombe (BSc 2009): 'Professor Gary Foster always had highly entertaining lectures with specific anecdotes that I can still remember very vividly. I have even shared some of these with the secondary school students I teach, which has started them off debating the topic of genetic modification and global food supplies. Thank you - you have not only inspired me but you are continuing to inspire others!'

Jonathan Ward (MSc 2004) said: 'Professor John Hannay brought passion, engagement, and occasionally eccentricity to complex, and sometimes dry subjects. He came across as someone genuinely excited by both research and communicating ideas. He had some memorable physical demonstrations too: for example, holding a bike wheel on a spinning office chair.'

Dr Rick Carter (BSc 1977, PhD 1983) said: 'Professor Brian Chappell lectured on what was then an emerging, changing and thoroughly complicated topic. He would arrive with a single small card, place it on the lectern and then proceed to talk about the detailed chemistry of his topic, eventually covering six blackboards with detailed chemical reactions, equations and details of papers we should read. As I recall, this was a series of three lectures, and after the third lecture he left his "notes" behind. One of our number couldn't resist and picked up the card. It simply said "You are lecturing in C42 at 11 o'clock". He was a superb scientist, a lovely man and an excellent head of department.'

Bridget Wood (BA 1988, Cert Ed 1989) said: 'Peggy Osborn was a thoroughly approachable lecturer with an understated but wicked sense of humour. Most importantly, she genuinely cared for her students while passing on her enthusiasm for renaissance Italian. Twenty years after I graduated she even visited me in the Bristol Royal Infirmary while I was recovering from treatment – now that's commitment to student welfare!'

Charlie Lambert (BA 1971) said: 'Dr Basil Cottle taught early and middle English. His sense of fun brought the subject to life. He used to take groups of students on walking tours of Clifton, pointing out landmarks with interesting histories and ending with tea in Bright's Golden Room, paid for by Basil. When I went on the tour, Basil, with a gleam in his eye, deliberately produced a crisp £10 note. "Watch this," he said. "She always does this." The waitress took the tenner and held it up to the light with great suspicion, checking the watermark. Basil meanwhile could hardly suppress his mirth while the rest of us struggled with the notion of Dr Cottle running off fake tenners in his flat in Burwalls. The tenner eventually passed muster. I'm sure Basil only took us to Bright's for the floor show. He was a great man who made learning enjoyable and left a lifelong impression.'

Marion Forsyth (BA 1979) said: 'Achim Wierzejewski was sharp - he had a sharp mind, a sharp tongue, and was a sharp dresser. A German from Duisburg who adored Venice, a funny, irreverent, brilliant man. He was interesting and inspirational - just as a lecturer should be.'

Professor Martin Taylor (BA 1969) said: 'Professor Peter Haggett was an especially gifted and inspiring communicator who had a unique ability to convey abstract geographical concepts through enlightening visualisations on the blackboard in an era well before computer programs made such methods more commonplace. His inspiring teaching was a strong motivation for me to pursue graduate research in geography which subsequently led to my academic career in Canada.'

Zoe Carrington (BSc 2015) said: 'Dr Matthew Avison always managed to balance being entertaining and informative, and would throw in some excellent anecdotes, making him someone who we'd all show up for, even at 9 am halfway up St Michaels Hill.'

Further information

Do you have a favourite lecturer? Let us know as we'd love to hear from you. Thank you to everyone who sent us their suggestions so far, we're sorry we couldn't feature them all. 

The Best of Bristol (BoB) lectures showcase teaching and research by the University’s best lecturers, as voted for by students and alumni. They celebrate great teaching as an integral part of academia, and inspire both students and the wider public to take an interest in new subjects.