4th Annual Robert Grosseteste Lecture in Astrophysics

Dali, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City

It’s About Time!

a public lecture by

Professor Don Kurtz

Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK

Friday, 31 January 2020,

6:00-7:20 pm

Newton Lecture Theatre  INB0114 in the Isaac Newton building, University of Lincoln

Book a place

Days, Weeks, Months, Years and more:  Hear about Roman Emperors, Zulu Wars, Rider Haggard, Thomas Hardy, the English time riots, and how the days of the week got their names in an amusing and informative tour of the Western calendar. Astronomers have designed calendars in societies through history, but calendar reform in western cultures has been driven by the needs of priests to set important religious holidays. In this talk you will learn how the now-International Gregorian calendar grew out of the earlier Julian Calendar, which was itself a refinement of the Roman Republican calendar. You will also learn why “30 days hath September …”, why the UK tax year starts on the odd date of 6 April, and why the Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on 7 January. The day, month and year are probably not what you think they are, and they no longer govern the GPS time on your phone. Come find out how we measure time’s passage.


Don Kurtz was born in San Diego, California, to an American father and Canadian mother. He obtained his PhD in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1976, then spent 24 years in South Africa at the University of Cape Town, where he was Professor and Life Fellow. Don has dual British and American citizenship and has been Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire since 2001. He was recently vice-president of the Royal Astronomical Society and serves on many international committees. He is frequently invited to speak internationally to both professional astronomers and to the public. Don observes with some of the largest telescopes in the world, has over 2000 nights at the telescope, and nearly 500 professional publications. He is the discoverer of a class of pulsating, magnetic stars that are the most peculiar stars known. He is co-author of the fundamental textbook “Asteroseismology”. He is an outdoorsman and has travelled widely. Don enthusiastically gives many public lectures per year to diverse audiences all over the world on a wide range of topics. He is a regular guest on BBC Radio Lancashire and has appeared in prime time on the BBC’s “Stargazing Live” with Dara O’Briain, on the BBC One Show, and on the “Sky at Night” with Patrick Moore.


20 Comments Add yours

  1. Sam and Tommy Higginson says:

    A really pleasant and entertaining night. Thanks for staging this event – we will look forward to future lectures!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Luc B says:

    Another great lecture, even though circular time wasn’t addressed in full 😉 The lecture itself was eye opening and thought provoking as to how we ended up with our multiple views on time and ways to measure it through surrogate metrics, and the smart questions and comments from the public made it even more interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Peter Jensen says:

    Very entertaining and enlightening. The speaker was clear, exceptionally well versed in his subject and the delivery was spot on. I could have sat through another hour and I’m sure he could have carried on. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gerard Cadwallader says:

    I love these lectures and very much appreciate what the University is doing. I travel down from Scunthorpe and it is always worth it. I thought this lecture was excellent; expertly delivered in an easy to understand manner and with humour by a person in complete command of his subject (and confident to admit what he didn’t know). Wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mel Jays says:

    Another really enjoyable lecture with a good balance of informative comment and humour, brilliantly presented. it gave my friend and I plenty to think about. We are very lucky That the University provides these great opportunities – thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thankyou for an informative lecture! It reminded me very much of comedian Dave Gorman, who realised that the Roman calendar needs modernising, and invented a new one that was probably more temporally accurate.
    He realised that there would need to be an extra month added, and like the Romans, he named it after himself. This Gormanuary was added to the calendar 😂
    You can see his hypothesis here: https://youtu.be/EcMTHr3TqA0 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jim Cunningham says:

    Don Kurtz speaks with great clarity and humour, and has a marvellous command of his subject. He filled in many gaps in my knowledge as far the history of how we constructed the current, day, weekly and monthly cycles. He simplified a number of difficult concepts making them accessible to the lay person.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. David Royle says:

    An interesting and informative lecture by Prof. Don Kurtz ,presented with a great sense of humour.
    I wish him well on a long and happy retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mervyn Hobden says:

    An excellent and informative lecture that clearly illustrated how humans have confused their perception of time over that last few millenia. The struggle to fit human time perception into a closed, algebraically neat strait jacket has left us with the lecturer’s statement that perhaps, we only have now as a certainty. Or perhaps, as Uncle Albert used to say – it is all relative! But, please come back Professor Kurz and continue the story!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Stephanie HEYWOOD says:

    Thank you, Professor Kurz. An interesting and entertaining lecture. We hope you have a long and happy retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Helen Green says:

    We greatly enjoyed this lecture. Information was put across in a simple and humorous way which was appreciated by my 13 year old daughter (Caistor Grammar School student) who is extremely adamant that she will be studying astrophysics at University. Don Kurtz was definitely an inspiration – we wish him well in his retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Gareth Howells says:

    Thank you Professor Kurtz for an extremely informative, educational and entertaining lecture. Good luck in your retirement sir!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Alan Hudson says:

    A really interesting talk from Prof Kurtz, we were discussing his lecture all the way home and we live 20 miles away, that gives you some idea of how much we enjoyed it. We look forward to his next visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. BREESON Tony says:

    An excellent entertaining. Lecture on the retirement day

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Andrew Brown says:

    Don Kurtz is an engaging, entertaining, knowledgeable speaker, apparently effortlessly connecting an vast array of facts, figures, and stories from throughout history, whilst ranging across many disciplines. An educative pleasure – and a privilege to be part of the audience on the first day of his retirement!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Deirdre Speed says:

    Another fabulous, informative and entertaining hour or so with Don Kurtz. I’m hoping that his retirement means that he’ll have more time (!) on his hands to prepare even more of these enlightening and thought-provoking lectures.
    Thanks, Don!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Tim Hodgson says:

    Brilliant lecture. A great event.

    Liked by 1 person

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