Who am I?

Can the players identify these famous scientists?
05 May 2020

Interview with 

Ella Gilbert, Hamish Symington, Eleanor Drinkwater, Sam Virtue


anonymous faces


Round 1 in many a pub quiz would usually be a picture round, but since visuals aren’t super conducive to radio, Katie Haylor and Phil Sansom gave the players a series of clues to identify these famous scientists...

Katie - So climate; pollinators; animal communication; the way the body works; welcome everyone. We've got Ella, Sam, Hamish, and Eleanor. In terms of teams, we're going to put you against each other basically: we're going to have Ella and Sam, you're on team one; and then team two is Eleanor and Hamish. Phil is going to keep the scores. You ready Phil? You got your pen and paper?

Phil - I'm so ready!

Katie - Okay. Let's crack on with it then! Round one. Now this would usually be a picture round in many a pub quiz, but since visuals aren't super conducive to radio for obvious reasons, we're going to tell you about these people instead. So this is your 'Who Am I? Famous Scientists' round. Okay, you ready? Just to explain how the scoring's going to work: we'll give you three clues; if you can get the right answer after clue one, you get two points; if you get the answer after clue two, you get one point; and if you need all three, but you do get it right, you only get half a point. And if you get the answer wrong or you really don't know, we're going to throw it over to the other team. Does everybody understand?

Eleanor - Yeah.

Ella - Got ya.

Hamish - Yes.

Katie - Excellent. Right. Let's crack on with the first question! Ella and Sam, team one. Clue 1: I studied at Newnham College here in Cambridge and graduated in 1941. After graduating, I went to work at the British Coal Utilisation Research Association and studied the porosity of coal, which became the basis of my PhD.

Sam - Okay, well first thing we can work out is it's almost certainly got to be a woman if she was studying at Newnham college in 1940. Do you have any ideas Ella about who may be famous for studying coal?

Ella - I'm going to go with no. Not a sausage.

Katie - Okay. We'll give you clue 2 shall we?

Sam - I think we're going to need it.

Katie - In the late 1940s I worked at the State Chemical Laboratory in Paris, where I perfected my X-ray crystallography skills. Any the wiser?

Sam - Oh.

Katie - Sounds like some cogs might be turning there.

Sam - Yeah. DNA... could it be Rosalind Franklin, do you reckon Ella?

Ella - Oh yes it could be, but I am really notoriously bad with names.

Sam - Okay. Yeah. I'm just having a horrible feeling it's the wrong name, but given I think it's right and it's a female X-ray crystallographer who'd be the right age for the discovery of DNA, we'll go with that then.

Phil - Well done!

Katie - Congratulations! So Phil, that's...

Ella - I can claim no credit.

Katie - ...that's one point isn't it Phil?

Phil - One point to Ella and Sam, well done!

Katie - Excellent. Okay, over to team two!

Phil - Eleanor and Hamish -  who am I? Here's your clue number 1: I have a programming language named after me! Alright what do you think?

Eleanor - I'm guessing these are people rather than animals?

Phil - These are indeed people.

Eleanor - Dammit!

Hamish - So it's not python then?

Phil - That would have been a good, good guess, I shouldn't have given you that hint. But yes, it's a person, not an animal; and they've got a programming language named after them.

Hamish - I should know this given I was a software developer for about 10 years. So I'm racking my brains at the list of programming language whose names aren't single letters like R, or C, or things like that.

Phil - Shall I give you clue 2 and put you out of your misery?

Hamish - Hang on. I have one potential suggestion which is Fortran, but I can't remember if that's an acronym or whether it's named after someone.

Phil - Eleanor.

Eleanor - Linux. That sounds like it could be someone's name, couldn't it.

Hamish - No, that was Linus Torvalds invented that one.

Eleanor - Oh.

Phil - I'll tell you what, I'm going to give you clue 2 to move things along...

Hamish - Go for it!

Eleanor - Sorry!

Phil - So who am I? My father was the poet Lord Byron, and it's because of him I had an unusually good education for a woman at the time. What do we think?

Hamish - Oh, it's Ada Lovelace.

Phil - Is that your final answer?

Hamish - Ada Lovelace is Byron's daughter. As far as I know.

Phil - Hey, very well done. That's a point to you, Eleanor and Hamish, and so we're actually exactly even as we move into our next question.

Katie - Back to team one, Ella and Sam. Here's your guest question for this round.

Jack - Hello The Naked Scientists! I'm Jack, I'm the librarian at the Whipple library, which is the library for History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Clue number 1: I was, along with Carolyn Herschel, jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society. I was a mathematician, geographer, and astronomer.

Sam - Any ideas Ella?

Ella - Oh my God. My knowledge of famous people is really, really showing to be very lacking here. I have no idea, I'm sorry.

Katie - Okay. We're going to give you clue 2. Ready?

Jack - Number 2: I wrote The Mechanism of the Heavens, which was published in 1831, and I appear on the Royal Bank of Scotland 10 pound note.

Sam - I've got no clue.

Katie - Right, I'm giving you clue 3.

Ella - Please help!

Katie - Okay here's number 3.

Jack - My namesake Oxford college has Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Dorothy Hodgkin, and Iris Murdoch as alumni.

Katie - Any the wiser? Otherwise we're going to throw it over to the other team.

Ella - No, no, no. I know like... Wadham?

Sam - We'll go with that then...

Katie - Is that your answer?

Ella - I think it's going to have to be, yeah.

Katie - That's your answer, okay. I'm afraid not! Team two, do you have any thoughts? Do you want to guess?

Hamish - I'm not up on female astronomers.

Katie - Okay, I'll put you out of your misery. The answer was Mary Somerville. So no points there, Phil. Over to team two.

Phil -  Well, nice try guys. This is for team two: Eleanor and Hamish. Here's your question from Jack.

Jack - Clue number 1: I'm Italian, was born in 1625, and became a French citizen and changed my first name after being invited to work in Paris by King Louis the 14th of France.

Phil -  So Italian became French. Any ideas?

Hamish - Not without a subject area. I mean it's probably going to be physics or astronomy or something like that because yeah...

Eleanor - I know that Leonardo da Vinci spent a lot of time in France. I don't know if he took up citizenship though.

Phil -  Would you like to make that as your guess?

Eleanor - Yeah. Yes. Maybe. Is there a second clue?

Phil -  There's a second! Would you like to move on, second clue?

Eleanor - Let's get a second clue!

Phil -  All right. Clue number 2.

Jack - I helped to set up the Paris observatory where my son and grandson would also have leading roles and where I discovered four moons of Saturn: Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys, and Dione.

Phil -  There we go. You've got your subject area. Eleanor and Hamish?

Hamish - Moons of Saturn... I was revising moons of Jupiter just before the quiz, just in case.

Phil -  Oh wow. That's unfortunate. Any guesses?

Hamish - I can't remember who discovered the moons of Saturn.

Eleanor - da Vinci would be a shout, maybe given the...

Phil -  Oh, would you like to guess da Vinci? I'm going to have to press you!

Hamish - Let's give it a go.

Phil -  What a good guess. And in fact I might have thought it too, but no, the answer is Giovanni Cassini. And your third clue would have been that he had a namesake, which is a probe getting sent to Saturn - that might've given it away,

Hamish - I would've got that one!

Phil -  Nice try. We're still one each to both teams, so everything to play for as we go into the next part.

Katie - Okay. Team one. There's an audio hint for this question, but it's only on clue three. So clue one: I'm Scottish born but invented my most important creation in North America. Pretty hard for a first clue, I think.

Ella - Alexander Graham Bell? Is he Scottish?

Katie - That was very impressive!

Phil -  Unbelievable!

Ella - Whoosh, back in the game!

Phil -  How, how did you get that Ella?

Ella - I just know he's Scottish and I know that he did the telegraph in the States

Phil -  Team two Eleanor and Hamish - time to step up to the plate! Good luck with this one. Alright, clue number 1. I left school at 18 in 1952 and I'm one of very few people to have been awarded a PhD by the University of Cambridge without having a bachelor's degree first, who am I?

Hamish - Hmm

Phil -  I'm going to move on cause we're a little pressed for time so here's clue number 2. Although I'm from the UK, I did my field work and research on a specific species in Africa.

Hamish - Ahhhhh

Eleanor - Could we get a third clue maybe? There's a lot of species in Africa!

Phil -  Clue number 3: I observed that chimpanzees are not vegetarian and in fact sometimes eat smaller monkeys.

Eleanor - Oh I feel like I should know this one.

Hamish - The only chimpanzee person I know is Jane Goodall.

Eleanor - Yes!

Phil -  Excellent. Well done. All right, that's round one done. Thanks very much everyone! Today we're getting stuck into a Naked Scientists science pub quiz. So do join in at home! How did you do in round one? Let us know. Tweet at Naked Scientists. And playing along down the line are climate scientist Ella Gilbert from the British Antarctic survey, bees and plants buff Hamish Symington from Cambridge University, metabolism maestro Sam Virtue, also from Cambridge University, and animal behaviour expert, Eleanor Drinkwater.

Katie - Right Phil - what are the scores on the doors?

Phil -  As we enter round two, it's three points to team one, that's Ella and Sam, against two points to team two Eleanor and Hamish.


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