Annual Edith Morley Seminar
The School's Annual Lecture series is named after Edith Morley, who was the first woman to be appointed a University professor in the UK, in 1908 at University College, Reading, which became the University of Reading in 1926.
2021 Seminar: ECMWF: Numerical Earth System Modelling, impact of observations and applications delivered by Dr Florence Rabier, Director-General of ECMWF.
2019 Seminar: The beauty of fractals delivered by Professor Gwyneth Stallard, OBE, Professor of Pure Mathematics at the Open University.
2018 Seminar: When to trust a self-driving car... delivered by Professor Marta Kwiatkowska, Professor of Computing Systems and Fellow of Trinity College.
2017 Seminar: Physics, meteorology, the Sun and how I ended up in an exciting career I didn't anticipate delivered by Professor Joanna Haigh, CBE, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College.
2016 Seminar: Meeting the Scientific and Policy Changes of the Antarctic Ozone Hole: A Global Success Story delivered by Professor Susan Solomon, Ellen Swallow Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry & Climate Science at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
2015 Seminar: The pain in the torus: modelling evolution in a spatial continuum given by Professor Alison Etheridge FRS, Professor of Probability and Deputy Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division of the University of Oxford and Fellow by Special Election at Magdalen College.
2014 Seminar: Weather forecasting and climate prediction: Recent successes and future prospects delivered by Professor Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office and Visiting Professor at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading.
2013 Seminar: The unfinished story of a popular yet controversial method for derivative-free optimization delivered by Professor Margaret H. Wright, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University.
The Distinguished Edith Morley Seminar took place on 9th September 2021 in the Madejski Theatre and online.
Dr Florence Rabier, Director-General of ECMWF, delivered the seminar.
Title: ECMWF: Numerical Earth System Modelling, impact of observations and applications
Abstract: The vision for the scientific and computational advances leading to operational global weather predictions in 10 years' time, as outlined in ECMWF Strategy, calls for an Earth System model, close to km-scale resolution with 50 or more ensemble members. A few objectives are:
- A seamless Ensemble Earth system maximising the use of current and upcoming observations through consistent and accurate modelling with realistic water, energy and carbon cycles.
- Use of advanced high-performance computing big data and AI methodologies to create a Digital Twin of the Earth with a breakthrough in realism.
- Detailed Earth system simulations of the past, present and future for the prediction of extreme and specifically high impact weather events up to a few weeks ahead and for the monitoring of the environment.
To achieve this vision, the global observing system needs to continue to provide high quality observations of the whole Earth system. Furthermore, many more observations are needed to enable high-resolution models to be initialised and yet today there are still many data gaps. I will present developments at ECMWF towards achieving its strategy, the methods used to evaluate the impact of observations in Numerical Weather Prediction and the results of a range of collaborative studies.
Dr Florence Rabier has been the Director-General of ECMWF since January 2016. Her career so far has taken her back and forth between Météo-France and ECMWF.
Dr Rabier is an internationally recognised expert in Numerical Weather Prediction, whose leadership has greatly contributed to delivering major operational changes at both ECMWF and Météo-France. She is especially well known within the meteorological community for her key role in implementing an innovative data assimilation method (4D-Var) at ECMWF in 1997, which was a first worldwide and contributed to an optimal use of satellite observations in weather forecasting. At Météo-France, she led the research and developments linked to the use of a wide range of observations in the operational models. She also organised an international experiment involving a major field campaign over Antarctica, in the context of the Fourth International Polar Year (2007-2008) and the WMO THORPEX programme.
She has been awarded the title of "Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur", and the Great Prize of the Air and Space Academy for the IASI project (Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer) and its atmospheric and weather applications.
For full list of publications, please see
Title: The beauty of fractals.
Our speaker for the Seventh Annual Distinguished Morley Seminar was Professor Gwyneth Stallard, OBE, Professor of Pure Mathematics at the Open University. The Seminar was held on Wednesday 23rd October 2019.
Abstract: In this talk we discuss the fascinating structure of geometrical objects known as fractals, beginning with classic fractal sets such as Cantor sets and the von Koch snowflake. We will then explore fractals which arise as Julia sets in the subject of complex dynamics. These are sets on which the iterates of a function behave chaotically and they have structures such as a Cantor bouquet and an infinite spider's web. Major advances in complex dynamics have often come from applications of powerful techniques in topology and complex analysis, and have also led to new results in complex analysis with wider applications.
Gwyneth read mathematics at King's College, Cambridge finishing in 1985 and earned her PhD from Imperial College London in 1991. When Gwyneth became a Professor of Mathematics at the Open University, she became the first woman to be a professor in the department. Her research is in the area of complex dynamics and concerns the iteration of transcendental meromorphic functions; she is particularly interested in the possible dimensions of the Julia set and in the structure of the escaping set. She was awarded the Whitehead Prize in 2000.
Gwyneth has a long standing interest in the issues surrounding women's careers in mathematics and chaired the London Mathematical Society's Women in Mathematics Committee from 2006 to 2015. This work was recognized by the award of an OBE in 2015. In 2016, she was honoured as part of the Suffrage Science Scheme and was among 12 women receiving awards to celebrate their scientific achievements in maths and computing, and their ability to inspire others.
Title: When to trust a self-driving car…
Our speaker for the Sixth Annual Distinguished Morley Seminar was Professor Marta Kwiatkowska, Professor of Computing Systems and Fellow of Trinity College. The seminar was held on Monday 26th November 2018
Abstract: Computing devices support us in almost all everyday tasks, from mobile phones and online banking to wearable and implantable medical devices. We are now experimenting with self-driving cars and robots. Since embedded software at the heart of these devices must behave correctly in presence of uncertainty, probabilistic verification techniques have been developed to guarantee their safety, reliability and resource efficiency.
Using illustrative examples, this lecture will give an overview of the role that probabilistic modelling and verification can play in a variety of applications, including security, medical devices, self-driving cars and DNA computing. It will also describe recent developments towards model synthesis, which aims to build these systems so that they are correct by construction. Finally, it will explore the problems of ensuring that systems that rely on learning will behave correctly, both in situations that they have seen in training, and in situations that they haven't.
Marta Kwiatkowska is Professor of Computing Systems and Fellow of Trinity College, University of Oxford. Prior to this she was Professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham, Lecturer at the University of Leicester and Assistant Professor at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. She holds a BSc/MSc in Computer Science from the Jagiellonian University, MA from Oxford and a PhD from the University of Leicester. In 2014 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
Marta Kwiatkowska spearheaded the development of probabilistic and quantitative methods in verification on the international scene. She led the development of the PRISM model checker, the leading software tool in the area and widely used for research and teaching and winner of the HVC 2016 Award. Applications of probabilistic model checking have spanned communication and security protocols, nanotechnology designs, power management, game theory, planning and systems biology, with genuine flaws found and corrected in real-world protocols. Kwiatkowska gave the Milner Lecture in 2012 in recognition of "excellent and original theoretical work which has a perceived significance for practical computing" and was invited to give keynotes at the LICS 2003, ESEC/FSE 2007, ETAPS/FASE 2011, ATVA 2013, ICALP 2016 and CAV 2017 conferences.
Marta Kwiatkowska is the first female winner of the 2018 Royal Society Milner Award and Lecture. She is a Fellow of ACM, member of Academia Europea, Fellow of EATCS and Fellow of the BCS. She serves on editorial boards of several journals, including Information and Computation, Formal Methods in System Design, Logical Methods in Computer Science, Science of Computer Programming and Royal Society Open Science journal. Kwiatkowska's research has been supported by grant funding from EPSRC, ERC, EU, DARPA and Microsoft Research Cambridge, including the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant VERIWARE "From software verification to everyware verification" and the EPSRC Programme Grant on Mobile Autonomy
"Physics, meteorology, the Sun and how I ended up in an exciting career I didn't anticipate"
Our speaker for the Annual Morley Seminar 2017 was Professor Joanna Haigh, CBE, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College and previously Head of the Department of Physics there. This seminar was held on Thursday 25 May 2017.
Abstract: Having spent most of my research life investigating various aspects of radiative transfer in the atmosphere, it was a chance remark by a solar physicist that sparked my interest in the Sun's influence on climate. I have found it a fascinating and rich subject for research. Solar-climate links have, of course, been the subject of popular and scientific interest since ancient times but over recent decades the topic has acquired new significance in the context of the need to assess the relative contributions of natural and human factors to climate change. So my long-standing interest in weather progressed into a deeper concern with climate and now the opportunity to become co-director of the Grantham Institute has given me a whole new career avenue in climate change. In this talk, I outlined some of my work on solar variability and climate and tried to offer an objective overview of my career, the decisions I have made and support received.
2017 Edith Morley Seminar: Professor Joanna Haigh, CBD (centre left) - Professor Ben Cosh (left) - Dr Joy Singarayer (centre right) - Dr Calvin Smith (right)
Our speaker for the 2016 Annual Morley Seminar was Professor Susan Solomon, Ellen Swallow Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry & Climate Science at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - see Professor Solomon's biography and her background information. The seminar, entitled "Meeting the Scientific and Policy Changes of the Antarctic Ozone Hole: A Global Success Story" was held on Wednesday 25 May 2016 in the Madejski Theatre in the Agriculture Building.
Abstract: The discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole shocked the world in 1985 and contributed to remarkable changes in policy as well as in environmental science and public understanding. In this talk, I will review key aspects of the history of ozone science. I will also summarize the roles of science, public engagement, international policy and technology in the international process that has effectively phased out the production of ozone-depleting chemicals. Finally, I will discuss some of the ways in which science continues to advance the understanding of ozone depletion chemistry, including recent research in my group on linkages between volcanic activity and polar ozone chemistry.
Professor Alison Etheridge FRS (Professor of Probability and Deputy Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division of the University of Oxford and Fellow by Special Election at Magdalen College) gave the 2015 Edith Morley Seminar on Wednesday 30 September in Meteorology.
Abstract: Since the pioneering work of Fisher, Haldane and Wright at the beginning of the 20th Century, mathematics has played a central role in theoretical population genetics. One of the outstanding successes is Kingman's coalescent. This process provides a simple and elegant description of the way in which individuals in a population are related to one another. It is based on the simplest possible model of inheritance and is parametrised in terms of a single number, the population size. However, in using the Kingman coalescent as a model of real populations, one does not substitute the actual census population size, but rather an 'effective' population size which somehow captures the evolutionary forces that are omitted from the model.
It is astonishing that this works; the effective population size is typically orders of magnitude different from the census population size. In order to understand the apparent universality of the Kingman coalescent, we need models that incorporate things like variable population size, natural selection and spatial and genetic structure. Some of these are well established, but, until recently, a satisfactory approach to populations evolving in a spatial continuum has proved surprisingly elusive. In this talk we describe a framework for modelling spatially distributed populations that was introduced in joint work with Nick Barton (IST Austria). As time permits we'll not only describe the application to genetics, but also some of the intriguing mathematical properties of some of the resulting models.
2015 Morley Distinguished Seminar: Professor Alison Etheridge FRS (centre) - Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde (left) - Professor Ben Cosh (right)
Professor Julia Slingo (Chief Scientist at the Met Office and Visiting Professor at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading) gave the second Morley Distinguished Lecture at the University of Reading on 18 March 2014.
Professor Slingo's lecture, "Weather forecasting and climate prediction: Recent successes and future prospects", addressed a selection of recent scientific advances from the Met Office science programme including new developments in local scale weather forecasting, seasonal prediction and the pause in global surface warming. Julia's presentation looked at some of the new developments on the horizon and how increased supercomputer power would help.
2014 Morley Distinguished Seminar: Sir David Bell, KCB (Vice-Chancellor), Professor Julia Slingo (Chief Scientist at the Met Office and Visiting Professor at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading) and Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde (Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences).
Professor Margaret H. Wright, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University
"The unfinished story of a popular yet controversial method for derivative-free optimization"
First published in 1965, the Nelder-Mead "Simplex" algorithm remains, after almost 50 years, one of the most widely used methods for derivative-free optimization, despite known flaws such as stagnation and slow/failed convergence. Although its implementation is straightforward, researchers have struggled to obtain minimal convergence results and (even harder) to explain its observed performance, which varies from successful to erratic. This talk will touch on selected interesting properties of the Nelder-Mead method.
2013 Morley Distinguished Seminar:
Professor Margaret Wright (Silver Professor of Computer Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University), Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde (Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences), Emeritus Professor Roger Mead (formerly Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading), and Professor Christine Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation.