DR PAUL RILEY  BSc 1st Class Honours, MSc, PHD


Paul is a chemistry graduate from the University of Manchester. After obtaining his B.Sc, M.Sc & PhD, he worked as a Science Council Research Fellow at the University of Sussex.Later, he left the academic world and took a position with Unilever in their Research and Development group working on next generation personal care products (antiperspirants, deodorants, and oral care products). Paul moved from R&D into the supply chain for raw materials and travelled extensively around the world (Europe, South America, India, Asia and the Far East).He retired from Unilever after helping to develop their concept of the ethical supply chain and set up a consultancy service in the area of cosmetic science.Paul established a position as an expert in the area of the technology and history of cosmetics and has published and lectured extensively on these topics. He is a member of the Lindsay Society for the History of Dentistry.Paul’s interest in astronomy arose from his academic studies on chemistry and geology where he developed a keen interest in the origins of the elements in the Periodic Table (always on the wall in the school’s laboratory!) and the origin of earth and planet formation. Paul and his wife have cruised extensively with P&O, Princess, Royal Caribbean, CMV and Holland America where he is a popular cruise ship presenter.



Myths & Legends of The Northern Lights


Norway is famed as one of the gateways to the spectacular Northern Lights. Since time immemorial man has gazed upwards, both in awe and in fear, at this light show. So not surprisingly many myths and legends have grown up around this light show.


Norway – Past And Present


This talk briefly describes the history of Norway, one of its famous explorers Leif Ericson, Norway’s fjords (one of its major tourist attributes) and more recently the growth of Norway’s oil industry.



1. The Northern Lights.
This talk charts the history and origins of this beautiful natural light display seen close to the Northern and Southern Poles using images and video clips taken from the International Space Station. The colourful display of lights arises from particles emitted by the sun being focused, through the Earth’s magnetic field, at the poles where they interact with out atmosphere to produce the fantastic light displays.

2. Our Place in the Universe
In ET Phone Home what address for planet earth did he give for the space ship to return and rescue him? This talk discusses how the early astronomers, together with the invention of the telescope, began to understand where planet Earth was in the solar system, the Milky Way and the wider universe.

3. The Big Bang - How did it all Begin?
This talk, in simple terms, charts the history and development of the Big Bang theory i.e. the origin of the universe. The term Big Bang was a sort of flippant comment made by Fred Hoyle, who was not a supporter of the theory, on a BBC radio programme in 1949. The talk continues to explore the life and death of stars and how they are responsible for the formation of the 92 elements that make up, not only us (we are star dust) but everything around us and how stars were responsible for the formation of planets and solar systems like our own.

4. The Solar System
A grand visual tour of our Solar System using superb images from NASA, the International Space Station and the numerous missions that have been launched to photograph and map the planets and our Solar System.

5. Keeping Us Safe - How Earth Evolved To Support Life
This talk discuss how Earth is just in the right place to nurture life – the Goldilocks Zone – not too hot, not too cold, Jupiter close and big enough to deflect asteroids from us, our magnetic field to keep us safe from the Solar Wind and Geomagnetic Storms and an atmosphere to protect us from Solar Radiation with an ozone layer.

6. White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars, Pulsars And Black Holes
A simple look at some of the more exotic structures that astronomers have found in our universe. What are they, how were they formed? Well they all have their origin in the violent death of stars – particularly in what we now call Supernova explosions.






1. For All The Tea In China
This talk explores the early history of tea from its roots in China through to its arrival in Britain – bought from Portugal by Catherine Of Braganza the wife of Charles II. Later the taking of Afternoon Tea was introduced by Anna Maria Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford in the 1840s and tea drinking grew more popular in the Victorian era. Finally the tea bag was developed by the wife of the American tea merchant Thomas Sullivan.

2. Opium Wars, Boston Tea Party, Clipper Ships and The War Effort
This talk traces the events that led to the Opium Wars when England traded Indian opium for Chinese tea and the high taxation of tea that led to the Boston Tea Party. The second part of the talk covers the famous Clipper ships that raced each other home to London with the season’s first tea. Finally a look is taken how tea kept moral high during the two World Wars.

3. Tea Shops and Tea Brands
This talk charts the rise of tea shops in England first developed by Lyons Tea and the ABC Company. In these tea shops smart waitresses nipped between seated customers serving tea and sandwiches – not too surprisingly they were nick named ‘Nippies’. The second part of the talk charts the formation and rise of some of the more popular tea brands; Liptons (a rag-to-riches story), Brooke Bond (Mr Brooke was real but Mr Bond was not), Ty-Phoo (taken from the Chinese for ‘doctor’ and Tetley (the original Tetley brothers sold salt).




1. Full Of Beans! A Decaffeinated Skinny Latté To Go



1. Make-Up To Die For
This talks charts the history and development of what we now call ‘Make-Up’ and begins in early Egyptian times where, in particular, the Khol eye make-up contained lead, antinomy and mercury - substances that we would now consider as extremely harmful. Make-up continued to flourish during Roman times where many of the harmful ingredients were still used. In England Elizabeth I popularised a very pale complexion using lead-based powders and creams which probably contributed to her death. Later the Church and Queen Victoria denounced the use of make-up and in the 18th century the society ladies Maria Gunning and Kitty Fisher were the first recorded deaths from ‘make-up’.

2. Looking Good –Smelling Even Better
This talk charts the history and development of perfumes from their first use in religious ceremonies and how, much later, the Black Death and the leather industry helped their development. The second part of the talk looks at the history of and how some of the more famous perfume brand got their names – Chanel No 5, Avon, 4711, Crown Perfumery and Old Spice.

3. BO And Bad Breath –What A Turn Off!
This amusing talk charts the development of deodorants and oral care products – two ‘cosmetics’ we apply daily but perhaps think little about.
Historically in many cases BO was positively appreciated! But how is BO produced and why does it smell? Learn why men should be careful in pig farms, how trained female ‘arm pit sniffers’ evaluated modern deodorants and how Mum, the first successful brand of deodorant got its name. Historically toothache was thought to be due to a worm gnawing inside the tooth, the great French dentist Pierre Fauchard recommended using ones own urine as a mouthwash? For those cruise-ship-quizzers the talk covers the first UK advert on UK TV (Gibbs SR toothpaste), the world’s first striped toothpaste (Signal), the famous jingle ‘You wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with ….’ (Pepsodent) and how decay-fighting fluoride was ‘discovered’.

4. Lashes and Lips
The history of mascara and lip stick. Tom Lyle Williams sat and watched his sister make home-made mascara from soot and Vaseline – he though he could do better. His sister was named Mabel so he developed the Maybelline Company! Lip stick had an ‘up-and-down’ history often seen fit for use only by actresses and prostitutes! However with the advent of the film industry it slowly became popular and commercialised by Helena Rubenstein, Max Factor and Elizabeth Arden.




1. William Hesketh Lever and Unilever
William Hesketh Lever was a grocer from Bolton who had an idea to wrap soap in paper with a brand name and later to manufacture the soap himself. This was the birth of consumer-product advertising with Sunlight Soap and the origin of the Multinational company Unilever. Lever not only developed advertising but he built a factory and village for his workers – Port Sunlight. This talks chats the early history of the company, a visual tour around his purpose built village and the products he made – Sunlight Soap, Lifebuoy Soap, Pears Soap, Rinso, Lux, Vim and Gibbs toothpaste. The talk is illustrated with colourful early adverts for his products.

2. Well I Never Knew That Part 1
This talk covers the history and advertising of some of the first branded soaps through their early adverts. Products include Sunlight Soap, Lifebuoy soap (it was a life-line a ‘lifebuoy’ to the Victorian mother whose family was at risk from disease and grim (hence the image of the lifeboat man), Pears soap and the
Miss Pears Competition and Vinolia soap. Not only did Lever manufacture soap but he tried to educate his consumers – he produced illustrated encyclopaedias and bought famous paintings to use in his advertising.

3. Well I Never Knew That Part 3
This talk covers the history of some of the more ‘everyday products’ produced by the Unilever Group. Clarence Birdseye was a real man who, after watching the Intuits freeze fish, had an idea – the Birds Eye frozen Foods Company. John Hewer played Captain Birdseye in advertising fish fingers until he retired at the age of 76 and Patsy Kensit, aged 4, featured in the icon advert with the slogan ‘Sweet as the moment the pod went pop’ for Birdseye Peas - which also was the first colour advert on UK television. Walls sausages were initially introduced by Edmund Cotterill in 1786 selling them in London. Much later the sales of pork sausages declined during the summer months so the company looked for a new product – ice cream. It was sold by bicycle riding salesmen with the slogan ‘Stop me and buy one’. And finally the OXO cube was originally a German invention!

For Winter 2014
1. The History of Christmas Traditions (3 talks covering: tree, card, crackers, stockings etc. etc.)
2. Gem Stones and Precious Metals (4 talks cover: what are gem stones and precious metals, their formation in the earth and the history of some of the more famous stones)




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