BD Shaw

March 5, 2015, by Emma Thorne

Blue plaque for birthplace of Nottingham’s famous explosives lecturer

A blue plaque has been unveiled today at the birthplace of a Nottingham chemistry professor whose hair-raising explosives lectures have achieved legendary status.

Colonel BD Shaw was a Nottingham alumnus, decorated First World War hero, prize marksman and an academic member of staff for more than 40 years. He also went on to become one of the most famous British demonstration lecturers of all time.

His infamous explosives lecture came about following concerns about a fall in attendance of students to chemistry lectures towards the end of the 1920s.

As Professor Shaw recalled: “In 1928, the University’s Chemical and Physical Society had very distinguished visitors who gave very erudite lectures which no one understood. Attendance was falling off.  I was invited to give a lecture which brought the audience in.  Having had a lifelong interest in explosives, I gave a lecture. I did bring the audience in.  I had to continue.”

A legend was born. From then until 1990, Professor Shaw gave the lecture more than 1,600 times in universities, industry at the Royal Institution, conference halls, hotels, fires stations and village halls from Nottingham to Rome and California. In 1969, the lecture was televised on the BBC’s Horizon to well over one million viewers.

Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff said: “I am very proud to have been a colleague of Colonel BD Shaw albeit after his retirement. He taught me a lot about lecturing and we maintain his tradition of demonstration lectures both in live performances here and on our YouTube Channel”

Professor Shaw died at his home in Beeston at the age of 101 but his life will be marked by the plaque which was unveiled at his birthplace, Fern’s Hollow on Station Road, Ilkeston by the Ilkeston and District Local History Society.

A blue plaque was unveiled at his former home on Queen’s Road, Beeston, as covered by the Periodic Table of Videos team.

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