"Fall 2021 - A Matter of Fire"

Intrigued by the eruption of Vesuvius, which had been dormant for at least 300 years, Pliny the Elder scrambled a couple of galleys and went to have a closer look. When his helmsman suggested that it maybe wasn’t a great idea to sail wooden ships into a hail of rocks and hot cinders, he replied: Fortes fortuna iuvat: Pomponianum pete (“Fortune favours the brave: steer for Pompeii”).       

It didn’t favour old Pliny, though – he landed near the volcano and died when a pyroclastic flow (a wave of superheated ash and gases) engulfed the area …


Graeme Hunter is the author of Vital Forces: The Discovery of the Molecular Basis of Life (Academic Press) and Light Is a Messenger: The Life and Science of William Lawrence Bragg (Oxford University Press).


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