Guest post: Discovering Aberdeen’s hidden gems

The team at Au Science Magazine shows us what a scientist looks like

When you think of the birthplace of scientific innovation and discovery, Aberdeen may not be the first city to spring to mind. But you’d be wrong, as Heather Doran, editor of Au Science Magazine explains.


Aberdeen has a rich history of scientific achievement, boasting a number of Nobel Prize winners who herald from the city, as well as being the birthplace of the iron lung  and the discovery of endorphins.

The students here at Au Science Magazine are all aware of the fantastic science that is currently going on behind the laboratory doors of the University, but we were totally shocked to find out how rich and varied the scientific history of Aberdeen is!

We will bring some of that history to life this September at the British Science Festival, with our treasure trail around the city centre. We created the treasure trail on behalf of the British Science Association Aberdeen branch and you can take part by picking up a booklet from the Belmont Cinema, and be in with a chance of winning cinema tickets and other science prizes.

The trail will take a circular route around the city centre, visiting some of the homes of past scientists from Aberdeen, talking through their discoveries, and there’ll be some useful trivia thrown in as well.

One such story from the history of Aberdeen is that of Hans Kosterlitz, who  joined the University of Aberdeen in 1933 and went on to discover endorphins in 1975, the chemicals produced by the body, which give rise to effects, like the ‘runners high’.

Since then Roger Pertwee at Marischal College in the early 1990s discovered that certain other compounds that are produced by our brains induce cannabis-like actions – the endocannabinoids.

Both endocannabinoids and endorphins are produced in our own bodies, meaning that everyone experiences certain morphine-like/heroin-like/codeine-like and cannabis-like effects – whether they wish to or not!

One of the events at the Festival, ‘Cannabis: Weeding out the highs and lows’, will focus on the history of cannabis use, what we know about how cannabis affects the body, and how current research is trying to uncover the possible medical applications of compounds extracted from the cannabis plant. The event will also feature a talk from Sarah Martin, the current British representative of the International Association of Cannabinioid medicines.

This is a real demonstration of how influences from the past are still helping us push forward the scientific discoveries of the future.

The British Science Festival starts in Aberdeen in less than two weeks’ time. The Festival is going to be a fantastic chance for us to see a range of scientists, speakers and authors across a range of disciplines and take part in fun events.

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