The First Blood Transfusion

Millions of blood transfusions are performed in hospitals across the world every year. However, the origins of this now familiar and vital life saving procedure were, as with other medical developments through history, controversial.

Experimentation in blood exchange began in both England and France 350 years ago, but such was the outcry at the ‘ungodly’ acts taking place that the French parliament banned the research, and all medical exploration in the subject ground to a halt. It wasn’t until 25th September 1818 that English surgeon and obstetrician James Blundell, after years of working on dogs, was finally able to conduct the first human to human blood transfusion, at St Guy’s Hospital in London. This was a radical procedure at a time when the majority of medical professionals still tried to cure most complaints by draining blood from a patient rather than replacing it. That same year, Blundell published Experiments on the Transfusion of Blood by the Syringe in the journal Medico-Chirurgical Transactions. This paper discussed his experiences conducting whole blood transfusions in dogs and humans using a syringe. It opened his work to scrutiny and further experimentation across the medical world.

Blundell’s choice of career was influenced by his uncle, John Haighton, a leading medic at Guy’s Hospital. Blundell studied with his uncle in the field of obstetrics. While they studied all aspects of childbirth, he and his uncle designed many of the instruments we associate with delivering babies today. As he was working with women in labour, he saw a large number of birth time related blood haemorrhages. It was so common in fact, that Blundell, desperate to save more women during the childbirth procedure, took to transfusing four ounces of blood extracted from the woman’s husband, and injecting it into her with a syringe in the hope it would cleanse her blood should she be losing the battle to live during labour. The Science Museum reports that Blundell “… performed a further ten transfusions between 1825 and 1830 and published details of them. Half were successful. Blundell limited the use of his transfusion apparatus to women on the verge of death due to uterine haemorrhage, the heavy bleeding that can result from a difficult labour. Blundell believed blood had a nutritive property and was infused with vitalism – a living force.”

Blundell’s work was a major breakthrough in medical science, but it still wasn’t until 1900, when Karl Landsteiner discovered blood groups, and worked out why certain bloods were incompatible with each other, that transfusions could start to become the successful cure they are today.

Blundell and the many scientists that followed in his wake continuing to develop transfusion techniques, are unlikely to have imagined what a massive impact their work has had on the modern world. Thanks to their dedication, by the twentieth century scientists in New York were developing the first blood banks. They were to become vital in keeping many injured soldiers alive during the two world wars, as well as other conflicts.

Even though it is two hundred years since James Blundell first ran blood from one human to another, the equipment he designed is still recognisable in operating theatres and transfusion kits used across the world today.

The year 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the first worldwide influenza pandemic. Known as Spanish Flu, this major outbreak claimed the lives of between 50 and 100 million people across the globe in 1918. The Guardian newspaper records that, “By the time the pandemic finally ended, it had killed around 25 times more people than any other flu outbreak in history. It killed possibly more people than the first and second world wars put together.”

Unlike the flu strains we recognise today, Spanish Flu was not claiming the lives of young children and the elderly as we’d expect, but was at its most virulent in healthy young adults. At a time when the First World War was  already claiming millions of men’s lives, it must have felt like the end of the world, and at its height, panic was rife.

Many myths and misconceptions have grown up around Spanish Flu. The biggest of all being that it had begun in Spain. This was not the case. As the epidemic raged against the backdrop of the First World War, the countries involved, Germany, Austria, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S, did not want morale worsened by either side believing that their own nation was the source of the flu. Consequently, and much to its annoyance, the neutral country of Spain was chosen to have the virus named after it and create the false impression they were bearing the brunt of the disease. In reality, the geographical starting point of the pandemic is still debated, with both East Asia and other parts of Europe more likely hosts.

As the virus spread very quickly, killing 25 million people in the first six months, it is understandable that many came to believe that Spanish Flu was a uniquely lethal strain. However, recent studies have suggested that it was only so virulent because of the conditions of the time. War meant that there was severe overcrowding and poor sanitation in many environments such as military camps. Poor living conditions led to bacterial pneumonia in the lungs being a relatively common condition amongst soldiers during the war years; once this has been contracted, the flu could get hold much faster. If the flu hadn’t had each an easy path to contagion, then it may have caused no more deaths than other epidemics.

As Richard Gunderman, the Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy at Indiana University, explained to The Conversation newsletter, “During the first half of 1918, new studies reveal that the death rate was relatively low. It was in late October and November of 1918 and early 1919 that higher death rates occurred, when people with flu symptoms began to crowd into hospitals in panic, and thus spread the disease further.”

In 2008, researchers announced that they had successfully determined the gene sequence of Spanish Flu. This was possible because one of the flu’s original victims, British diplomat Mark Sykes, was disinterred from his lead-lined coffin so that researchers could study his remains. The Guardian reports that, “The purpose was to enable researchers to take samples, from his remains, of the H1N1 virus strain that caused the Spanish flu. Such samples, now under high-security lock and key in Atlanta, have been examined for clues as to why this strain was so potent and how a future pandemic might be contained.”

Every few decades a new flu epidemic occurs. Scientists believe that the next pandemic will happen sooner rather than later, and that the more we can learn from the 1918 outbreak, the more prepared we will be.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation a heatwave is a “marked unusual hot weather over a region persisting at least two consecutive days”.

Usually, such a definition would not be something we may be interested in knowing, but perhaps times are changing in this country. For the UK, this summer is shaping up to be one of the hottest of all time. Forecasters at the Met Office have been reading out temperatures of 34C over the last few days (24-27th July), and even with the onset of storms in some regions, it looks like it will be remaining warm for a while yet.

The Met Office reports that “the temperatures so far this summer have been remarkable… between 1 June to 16 July, the average daily maximum temperature across the country was 20.9 °C.” This average has increased over the past two weeks, with many parts of Britain experiencing heat in excess of 28C. Porthmadog, in Wales, now holds the record for the hottest day of June, when it reached 33C on the 28th. This was beaten in Suffolk, though, when on 22nd July temperatures soared to 33.3C.

The UK’s heatwave has been caused by a jet stream looping to the north of the UK, creating an area of ‘home grown’ high pressure. Met Office forecaster Mark Foster explains, “Long days, very still conditions and clear skies helped June temperatures to get very intense… The sun in June is relatively the highest it gets in the sky and heat can build up over successive days.”

The build of heat Foster refers to leads to extreme levels of pollen and UV, meaning hay fever sufferers have been having a particularly bad year. As the sunshine continues to blaze in our skies, experts have warned The Telegraph “…  the heatwave risks bringing on a faux autumn with prematurely ripening fruits and browning leaves.” If hedgerow fruits mature two months ahead of their usual growth pattern in some parts of the country, that will cause disaster in the autumn for the animals that rely on them for food.

There is no way of accurately predicting how much longer this sunshine will last. The Met Office explains high pressure systems are “slow moving and can persist over an area for a prolonged period of time such as days or weeks”. The longer this weather lasts, the higher the risk of thunderstorms and flash floods resulting from heavy rain fall hitting dry ground. Rain-soaked days are traditionally associated with a British summer, but between 1st June and 16th July the UK received just 47 mm of rain. This makes it the driest start to summer since 1961. The summer of 1976, which is currently the hottest summer on record, had an average temperature of 21.0 °C. In 1976 there were 69 days of sunshine in total. The Met Office has confirmed that if the “rest of the summer is average, 2018 will certainly rank in the top 10 warmest summers on record and if we continue to see above average temperatures, it could well be record breaking.”

While humans are suffering from heat-related exhaustion, the threat of water restrictions and coping with searingly hot commutes to work, there are many other, more far reaching implications to the heatwave. Farmers are struggling to keep their livestock fit and healthy. Speaking to Sky News, Gloucestershire farmer Luke Wilson said after his “250 sheep were sheared in June [and] they have been relatively happy, but a lack of grass is the biggest problem… It’s their food which is a concern, I only feed my sheep on grass and we’re about to run out due to a lack of rain.”

Crop growers are also worried. Hot temperatures mean more people are eating salad foods like lettuce. However, many types of lettuce won’t grow if it’s too hot, and there are fears that supplies will run low soon. Broccoli also refuses to grow if too hot, and so prices will rise as supply diminishes. Insects such as dragonflies are in danger as their water supplies dry up. Bees, however, are enjoying the dry conditions, and are experiencing a much needed boost; which has lead to a bumper year of flowers.

One occupation, however, is enjoying a bumper year of discovery thanks to the effects of the scorching temperatures. Archaeologists across the UK are making a great many discoveries, just as they did in 1976. Dry ground highlights the hidden features of the earth, especially when observed from above. For example, the drought in Ireland has lead to failing crops, and so has exposed as long forgotten henge at Brú na Bóinne. The Express explains that, “The circular design was spotted by photographer and author Anthony Murphy who was flying his drone nearby above the site when he stumbled upon it. The pattern is 150 metres (492 ft) in diameter, but experts are unsure what its purpose is.”

The all-time July heat record is 36.7C , set at Heathrow airport on 1st July 2015. Whether or not that record breaks this year isn’t entirely clear now, but if the temperature trends of recent times continue to rise as they have been, it may be that sometime in the next few years it will be.

A Blood Moon occurs when the Moon, during a total lunar eclipse, appears to take on a reddish colour. This ‘blood red’ appearance happens because the Moon is illuminated by sunlight that has been filtered and refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere.

On the 27th July 2018, we will experience the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century. NASA lunar scientist Noah Petro of the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, USA, says that the phenomena should last between 1 hour and 43 minutes and four hours. This ‘Blood Moon’ will be visible almost everywhere in the world (with the exception of North America.) Speaking to The Independent newspaper, Dr Morgan Hollis from the Royal Astronomical Society said that the eclipse will be visible from “anywhere in the UK, weather permitting.”

Observing a lunar eclipse is much safer than viewing a solar eclipse as no special equipment is required to protect your eyes. As the Moon passes into Earth’s shadow, it will be safe to view the event with the naked eye, telescopes or binoculars.

When asked what determines how long a lunar eclipse lasted, Petro told Space.com, “What controls the duration of the lunar eclipse is the position of the Moon as it passes through the Earth’s shadow. The darkest part of Earth’s shadow is called the umbra. You can picture the umbra as a cone extending from Earth in the opposite direction to the sun. The Moon can either graze through the cone, or go right through the middle….” The nearer to the middle of the cone the Moon grazes, the longer-duration eclipse.
The Royal Astronomical Society are predicting that in the UK on 27th July, moonrise will occur at 8.49pm in London, while further north, in Glasgow, it will take place at 9.26pm. According to EarthSky.org, there will be a period of time either side of the eclipse when the Moon is travelling through the lighter part of Earth’s shadow. This transition is called the penumbra. Including that penumbral time, the eclipse will last for 3 hours and 55 minutes.

During the lunar eclipse the Moon will appear at its most ‘red’ when it lies directly in the shadow of the Earth. This brightness of colour is caused because some of the sunlight going through Earth’s atmosphere bends around the edge of Earth and falls onto the Moon’s surface.

The Blood Moon will be seen at its clearest away from cities and well lit areas. You can find a list of the very best observation spots in the UK here- https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/lunar-eclipse-best-places-to-watch-uk-blood-moon-mars-explained-when-a8459956.html

If you miss this lunar eclipse, you’ll have to wait until 21st January 2019 for the next one.

In the Northern Hemisphere the longest day of the year falls on 21st June. This day is often referred to as the Summer Solstice or Midsummer’s Day. But why is this day so much longer than average?

As the Earth rotates on its axis, parts of the world move closer to the sun, while the rest moves farther away. It is this tilt which brings it nearer to the Sun that is force behind the solstice. On 21st June the Earth’s axis tilts 23 degrees at the same time as the Sun reaches its highest point of altitude. The result is that, with the exception of the Polar Regions, the Northern Hemisphere experiences the longest period of daylight hours of the year on that day.

In the UK and Europe the longest day is usually 21st June, but due to the curvature of the Earth, the highest altitude of the Sun occurs on a different day in a few locations over the tropics. In areas where the sun is directly overhead (within both the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn) there are two different ‘longest’ days. This is because the Sun crosses directly once on the day before the solstice and once on the day after.

Occasionally the summer solstice falls on June 22nd in Europe; although it is very rare. The last time this happened was 1975 and the next time will be in 2203. This occasional variation of a day, or a few days as you get nearer the equator, is because the earth orbits the sun in an ellipse and not a circle (or sphere), and its orbital speed varies slightly during the year.
The Winter Solstice, or the shortest day, which occurs on the 21st December in the Northern hemisphere, works in the opposite way. The Earth is orbiting at its furthest point from the Sun, and so we experience long periods of dark skies and therefore a shorter day.

The longest day traditionally marks the first day of summer in the UK, just as the 21st December heralds the start of Winter. However, just because the Summer Solstice is the longest day, it does not guarantee that it will be the hottest, or even warm. Traditionally the Summer Solstice has been a time to celebrate the planting and harvesting of crops. This ancient idea is still celebrated by some to this day; most famously commemorated in England by the Druid communities who gather near Stonehenge to watch the sun rise over the Heel Stone.

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original TV series that has been heavily criticised. Season 1 of the series followed the story of Hannah Baker and why she committed suicide. Hannah made 13 videotapes, each one about a person who caused her suicide. They were watched by her friend Clay.

In series 2, Hannah’s ghost follows Clay around. Series 1 was controversial as it raised issues around suicide and male to female rape, but series 2 has led to far more controversy. The series raised a number of painful and controversial issues – male to male rape, physical violence, bullying, mental health issues, suicide and more. Many felt that it promoted bullying and violence. The violence has been described by critics as disgusting and unnecessary. The target audience of the show is teenagers, even though it is rated 18. Many have expressed their upset at watching scenes that have happened in the show, particularly the physical and sexual assault in the male to male rape scene. However, the show’s creator, Brian Yorkey, says, “it doesn’t even come close to the pain experienced by the people who actually go through these things.” A correct response, but perhaps not enough to satisfy the detractors.

The second series has been heavily criticised, but it has also been praised. TV has a big impact on people and the way young people think about things. The media can raise important issues and awareness. For example, Mental Health Awareness Week raises issues for all of us about the people who are suffering mental health issues. Ford UK placed a video on their website and produced adverts about the elephant in the van – that we are afraid to talk about mental health issues and encouraging men to talk to each other. On the other hand, you have to remember that the press and any media has an agenda setting function. It decides what is important and what we should know. This means that we do not always get an unbiased view of what we are learning about through the media and films.

Do TV series like 13 Reasons Why inform us and then encourage us to share our experiences with others who can help? Netflix commissioned the Institutional Review Board of Northwestern University to find out and found that the majority of 5,000 parents and adolescents interviewed who watched the show found it beneficial. Some of the relevant statistics can be seen below.

• 75% said they had experienced similar issues.
• 69% said that they thought the show was helpful for people of their age.
• 56% of parents said that the show had encouraged their children to open up and talk about the issues in the show.

This research, which of course was carried out on behalf of Netflix, suggests that the show is beneficial and helpful in encouraging people to talk about the issues raised. Others still criticise the show saying it encourages suicides, violence, teen shootings, vigilante behaviour and exposes teenagers to violence. The Independent also raised the point that it could even result in suicide contagion or copycat suicides. There has, some other statistics say, also been an increase in suicides after the graphic descriptions of suicide in the show. How such a  result is found can be something open to debate, however. Can it really be put down to a television programme? Not everyone who commits suicide will have watched 13 Reasons why, and if the numbers considered only include those who have, that may provide some rather unreliable findings. Questions or calculations can be somewhat loaded to ensure the “right” answers are found. And there is another thing we also have to consider when people call for programmes like this to be banned: freedom of the press and media censorship. Should we ban programmes? There is no real answer to the question.

If there is one thing I would say about the controversy, it is this: we have to encourage programme makers to seriously consider WHY they are making these programmes and what they aim to achieve. A more substantial response than “it’s not as bad as the real thing” to its critics would be a start, and could put out a lot of the fires raging around it.

Many of you who are doing exams this year will be revising or starting to think about revising. As a tutor, I am often asked, “What should I revise?” The answer is, unfortunately, everything that you have covered in the course. No one except the exam writers know what is going to be in the exams in any single year, so always make sure that you cover everything.

Barnaby Lenon, an ex-headmaster at Harrow, has recently written in a blog that GCSE students should revise their course at least three times. The same applies for A level students, but officially there is no magic number given as to how many times you should do so. Usually, however, it will be more than once. Some lucky people, the exceptions, can read something once and it will “go in”, but more will have to go through the course over and over again for it to sink it. We are all different, and this is the main point with revising – what works for one person will not work for another.

With all this in mind, there are some tips below. Remember, some will work for you, some won’t.

• Find a good place to work. Some of you will like quiet, others will like some noise. We all work best in certain places. Some students may like to work in a library, others in their room, others in a coffee shop. Find a place that works well for you and stick to it.

• What time works best for you? Some people work better early in the morning, others in the afternoon, others late at night. Again, stick to what works for you. If you are a night owl, it’s pointless to try and force yourself to get up early and study – it just won’t work as well. Use your strengths and find the best time to suit you.

• Avoid distractions. There are so many distractions today: mobile phones, television, emails and so on. It can make it hard to study. If you are reading this now but also looking at your social media feed on your phone, for example, it’s doubtful all you are reading will go in. So avoid such distractions if you can. Turn off your phone. Turn off your emails. If you find it hard to do this, give yourself a time limit, “I will revise for one hour, then spend five minutes looking at my phone.”

• With the above point also in mind, some students find it hard to sit down and study for long periods. Others prefer it. Again, you should do what suits you best. If you do find it hard to sit for long periods, give yourself a reward. One student I worked with played volleyball at national level. He found it very hard to sit down for long periods and study. Consequently he was doing hardly any revision. We came up with a plan. He would revise for 50 minutes, then go outside and play with a ball or go for a jog for ten minutes. Then he would revise for 50 minutes again and so on. This worked well for him. You may find a similar reward works for you, looking at your phone, going for a walk, making a cup of tea, watching TV, phoning a friend and so on. Decide on your time limit and give yourself a reward.

• Aim to study for no more than two and a half hours without taking a break. You are probably not revising as well as you would if you carry on revising after that time.

• Making and reading notes and using flashcards can all work well for some students. Others can make recordings of their notes and listen back to them when they are going for a walk or even when they are sleeping at night – Mind maps and memory palaces can also be useful when revising. Again, find a method that works well for you and stick to it.

• If you are reading something and it isn’t sinking in or you don’t understand it. Try a few of the following techniques…
o Read it out loud. When you do this, sometimes it seems to make more sense.
o Try and explain it to someone else – You may find that you know far more than you think you do when you explain it to another person.
o Read it in another way. There are a lot of resources online today, so if you don’t understand your notes or textbook, look online and find another explanation.

• Making a revision timetable for when you intend to revise your subject is also useful. You may be revising for more than one subject, so work out when you are going to study and make a plan for each subject.

• Practice exam papers and old TMAs under “exam conditions.”

• Try to take off a day a week. You decide which day. Take some time off from all that studying.

• Try to start revising as soon as you can. The earlier you start to revise, the more revision you will do.

Remember, you have revised before. You know what has worked well for you and what didn’t. So if you have a good way of revising, stick to it. But if your way hasn’t worked so well, why not try another option from those listed above? There is also of course a lot of advice out there online and in books. The best way to revise is the way that works for YOU! So find your best method and stick to it.

Finally, though success in them is all about your hard work and revision, I am still going to wish you this – Good luck with your exams!

On April 11, 1970, at 7.13pm (US time), Apollo 13 was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Only two days later its crew, Commander James A. Lovell Jr, Command Module Pilot, John L Swigert Jr and Lunar Module Pilot, Fred W Haise Jr (pictured above, left to right), found themselves abandoning their planned landing of the module on the Moon, however, when an oxygen tank exploded.
Blowing out the side of the Service Module, the crew were left with only the Command Module and a series of life-threatening consequences. Suddenly they only had limited power, had lost the cabin heating system, and very soon they began to run out of water and food. Meanwhile, urgent repairs were needed to the carbon dioxide removal system, which threatened to flood the module with toxic fumes.

With a calmness that can only be marvelled at, Swigert and Lovell radioed Mission Control with the well known words, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” Mission Control, led by flight director Gene Kranz, immediately switched its prime mission from exploration to getting all three crewmen back to Earth alive. Their first move was to shut down all essential systems. Even with this done however, there were only enough resources to keep two of them alive for two days; somehow they had to make them last four days – and then for all three men.

Mission Control worked hard on ways to get the lunar module’s filter system working to ensure the astronauts didn’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning by having the crew construct a makeshift system constructed from whatever they had to hand- in this case, duct tape, hosing and the command module’s surviving canisters; adapting them for lunar module use. They then had to make sure that the module remained in the Moon’s gravitation pull, so that as they travelled around it they would gain enough momentum to be powered back to Earth. Despite suffering from the cold of their situation, and a lack of food and water, the crew still managed to jettison the Service Module and fly the Command Module back into Earth’s orbit. They survived against all odds and eventually splashed down in the Pacific on April 17th.

Once the crew were safely on Earth, investigations began into what had gone wrong. It was discovered that a heating wire inside the liquid oxygen tank had lost its insulation and that as a result it gradually overheated – leading to an explosion the crew likened to a bomb going off.

Further work led to the conclusion that the initial design of the oxygen tank had played a part in the disaster. All the previous Apollo missions had flown without any oxygen tank problems but the tank on Apollo 13 had a troublesome history. As Space.com explains, “In October 1968, the Number 2 tank eventually used on Apollo 13 was at the North American Aviation plant in Downey, California. There, technicians who were handling the tank accidentally dropped it about two inches. After testing the tank, they concluded the incident hadn’t caused any detectable damage. The dropped tank was eventually cleared for flight and installed in Apollo 13. The tank passed all of its routine pre-launch tests. But at the end of March 1970, after a practice session called the Countdown Demonstration Test, ground crews tried to empty the tank — and couldn’t. “

The technicians “fixed” the problem by turning on heaters inside the tank to warm up the remaining liquid oxygen, turning it into gas which could then be vented to safety. The thermostat inside the tank was supposed to prevent the temperature from exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, a surge of electricity caused the thermostat to weld shut without the technicians noticing. This meant that the continual intense heat damage to the internal wiring of the tank turned it into a small bomb, which was ignited when Apollo 13’s crew turned on the cooling fans inside the service module’s two liquid-oxygen tanks.

The Apollo 13 crew were all awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their acts of heroism. Their story has been told many times, but most famously- and most accurately – in 1994 by Commander Lovell himself, who wrote about the mission in his book, Lost Moon. Such was the popularity of the book that director Ron Howard adapted it into the award winning film, Apollo 13, in 1995.

At the age of 85, on 31st March 1727, Sir Isaac Newton died. He was the first scientist to be given the honour of being buried at Westminster Abbey in London. Considered to be the father of physics, Newton was born in Lincolnshire in 1642, coincidentally the same year that Galileo – the scientist who influenced him most – died.

Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, Newton studied Galileo Galilee’s theories of motion. He went on to work at the University for 30 years as a Professor of Maths and while there,  developed his own and Galileo’s theories further by applying them to laws of motion and gravity – the backbone of modern day physics.

Newton was also fascinated by light. He discovered that white light is made up of a range of colours, and went on to invent the first reflecting telescope; an instrument that could see tiny objects much more clearly than any telescope to date. It wasn’t just Galileo’s theories that fascinated Newton either. He was also passionate about the work of many others, including the French philosopher Descartes and the English chemist Robert Boyle. By learning as much as he could from his fellow scientists, he applied his own knowledge and skills to both light, the laws of force and – most famously – gravity.

Newton explained the pulling force of gravity by using the example of an apple falling from a tree. He used his theories to explain why things fell down to earth, rather than floated off to the side, or rose upwards into the sky. Newton used this same idea to go on to explain why the moon remained in the sky. This theory went on to become known as the ‘Universal Theory of Gravitation.’ Not only did Isaac Newton develop his gravitation theory, stating that two things will be attracted to one another and that the mass of each object will affect the amount of attraction, he also created the mathematical formulation of calculus.

Isaac Newton’s outstanding contribution to science led to him being made the president of the Royal Society in 1703. He didn’t just confine his work to science and mathematics, however. Newton was also appointed an MP in 1689, and went on to become the Master of the Royal Mint in 1700.Indeed, on 16th April 1705 he was knighted by Queen Anne, in recognition for his lifetime of achievements in both politics and science. His final honour was to become the first scientist to be buried at Westminster Abbey.

During recent weeks in the UK, we have seen a lot of snow, with those places most severely affected even being cut off. Neither has this weather been confined to the north of the country. Devon has been one of the worst affected regions. By now, to be honest we have largely had enough of it. However, initially, and certainly when we are at a younger age, we tend to find a snowfall an exciting and happy occurrence. Why is this? We know it will bring its problems, after all. And why do we find it so difficult to cope with it when other countries live with snow a great deal of the time and seem to manage a lot better?

To be honest, as in the UK snow is not so common, when it does come it is not so expected as in other countries and we are not as prepared as we could be. This is becoming an increasingly contentious issue, as we do seem to be having more snow than in recent times and each occasion brings travel chaos and various other difficulties. Snow does cause a great deal of excitement, though, and is still a source of fun and beauty. Building snowmen, having snowball fights, getting the day off from work or school, seeing a whitened landscape, all can create an amount of happiness. It can feel as if there is a fresh new world out there, especially if you haven’t experienced it before of course.

However, snow can also have those aforementioned negative consequences, but not all of them are physical or logistic. It can lead, for example, to strong feelings of isolation among those who are unable to get out as a result. People living in rural locations, particularly older people and people with disabilities can find themselves stuck at home with little or no social support. A few months ago the UK introduced a Minister For Loneliness; it is a growing concern that there are those, particularly older people, who have little social interaction. Social interaction and support is very important and if we have a lack of it then it can negatively affect our mental health, particularly our sense of self-esteem. For someone already isolated and so affected, a fall of snow can make them feel even worse.

People may also become stressed when they are not able to do the things they want to do because of the conditions. Getting to school, getting to work, going out with friends, making an appointment or meeting – all these things can be disrupted. Snow can be a nice change to our routine, but it can also be a big negative. If a person is away from home, for example if they are in London at an event but they live in Manchester, they may be worried that they won’t get home and where they will be able to stay; what will it cost to stay in a hotel overnight, will there be a free room, what about their family and other commitments?

Whilst snow can be beautiful and mesmerising, it can also increase the stress and pressure placed upon us. It is not all bad, taking the time to sit and look at it covering everything in a white blanket can also make us feel better about the world around us. It seems the more we have, the more divisive it becomes. What do you think? Is snow a positive or negative thing? As we have discussed, the answer may well depend on where you live.

Connect with Oxford Home Schooling