World leading Professor Plumb visits old school and gives presentation

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Students’ learning was taken to new heights when they were treated to a lecture by one of the world’s most eminent atmospheric scientists.

Highly respected Professor Alan Plumb is recognised as making a pioneering contribution to the understanding of the ozone hole, monsoons and many other phenomena.

Ripon Grammar old boy, Prof Plumb returned to his former school for the first time in nearly 50 years to meet staff, tour the facilities and deliver a lecture on the depletion of the ozone layer to geography, maths and physics students.

Having grown up in Ripon, the professor went on to study physics followed by a PhD in astronomy at Manchester University before embarking on a career that has taken him around the world.

He spent 13 years in Australia and for the last 27 years has been based in the United States where he led the Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1998, he has worked with NASA on aircraft experiments at altitudes of 20km or more than 65,000ft.

The son of a shopkeeper and railway porter, Prof Plumb recalled how his love of fluid dynamics started as a schoolboy in Ripon.

He said: “I liked fishing and I’d stand and watch the trout in the Ure every day on my way to school. I remember wondering about how the water moved around rocks.

“I was an Air Force cadet at school and once took a course on airflow around mountains. I remember being intrigued about that in the same way.”

Prof Plumb had already developed an interest in astronomy, reading about it in books from the school library.

He said: “It was dark at Ure Bank Top, where I grew up. I think we cheat kids today out of something really important by having all this light pollution. When you have a dark sky, like we had when I was a boy, you can see so much.”

During his return to Ripon the 67-year-old was shown the school observatory and gave his lecture in the red brick building where he learned his science.

He said: “I enjoyed mathematics at school but didn’t really like physics until I got to sixth form. I remember lessons with Mike Wallace.

Admitting he came from an ordinary background, he added: “It felt like a very academic environment where you were encouraged to achieve. It didn’t have to be mathematics or physics, it could be music, but it always set high expectations.”