The unnatural future of living in the aluminium age


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Posted on 05 March 2013
The biological reactivity of aluminium appears to be its best kept secret, though tell that to fish dying in acid waters or renal patients suffering dialysis encephalopathy."

Professor Chris Exley, an international expert on Aluminium and the ways that it impacts upon life on earth, will give the latest lecture in Keele University's programme of Inaugural Professorial Lectures on Tuesday, 19 March, 2013, in the Westminster Theatre, on the University campus. The title of the lecture is "You can call me Al".

Professor Exley, Professor of Bioinorganic Chemistry at Keele University, said: “Even my old boss at The Royal Society enquired quizzically of me as to why I was bothering to research aluminium. I explained that this was actually the subject for which I was awarded my Royal Society University Research Fellowship! Oh, he replied, his dark and slightly foreboding eyes beginning to glaze over as our ‘interview’ came to an abrupt end. I am sure that he mumbled something about it (aluminium) having no biological purpose and being essentially benign as he walked away, probably convinced that I was wasting both his and my time!

“One of his mumbles had some substance, aluminium having no known essential biological role, but his other final utterance, purposefully beneath his breath, that aluminium had no biological reactivity was at best uninformed and more likely contrived. The biological reactivity of aluminium appears to be its best kept secret, though tell that to fish dying in acid waters or renal patients suffering dialysis encephalopathy, and indeed it is one secret which the aluminium industry is determined to keep at all costs! In this lecture I will take you on a whistle-stop tour of the natural history of aluminium and the unnatural future of living in the aluminium age.”

Professor Exley is a biologist with a PhD in the ecotoxicology of aluminium (both University of Stirling). During his PhD research he discovered a unique biochemical relationship between the elements aluminium and silicon and it is the story of the co-evolution of these two elements in biological systems which has been his life’s work to date.

Professor Exley came to Keele in 1992 with Professor JD Birchall OBE FRS to form what is now The Birchall Centre. He was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 1994 and became Reader at Keele in 2002.

Keele's programme of Inaugural Lectures are given by newly established professors within the University and aim to give an illuminating account of the speaker's own subject specialism. The lectures, which start at 6 pm in the Westminster Theatre, are chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Foskett.

This lecture is free and open to all. Please reserve your place by emailing events@keele.ac.uk


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