By Katie Anderson
As Palatinate dons its best party hat to celebrate the 800th issue, it seems appropriate to draw attention to a handful of outstanding members of the Durham University community, both past and present, who have succeeded in furthering society or else enriched it culturally.
E. S. Anderson
If we hurtle back to before the first world war, the young Ephraim Anderson was undertaking an undergraduate science degree at Durham. Unbeknown to him then, his scholarship would in time notably advance public perception and understanding of genetic resistance. His academic findings have undoubtedly impacted, or will impact, the life of each reader: given that his identification of the increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics has aided the way in which governments and medical co-operations have since viewed and conducted the act of prescription. He argued vehemently that unless antibiotics were preserved and protected, the medical world was liable to lose the ability to easily counteract many commonplace diseases- an issue that continues to rage with the force of MRSA shaking British hospitals. We must celebrate his perseverance in the face of outrage exuded by commercial companies and farmers, after he determined that low dose antibiotics in animal feeding stuff (used to enhance livestock physically and increase profit) was the cause of multiple drug resistances developing in livestock enteric bacteria. This had potentially detrimental knock-on consequences for the human population.
As the founder of ‘Traidcraft’, a NGO which promotes ethical shopping on a mass-scale, Richard Adams is another commendable individual. It was whilst at Durham that his interest in International Development was sparked, diverting his attention away from his previous ambitions of becoming a clergyman. It became his aim to lessen the importance of the middle man during trade, enabling farmers to earn more from their produce. He has since been placed in the The Independent’s top fifty people who are ‘making the world a better place’. Over the years, his enterprise has branched out from fruit and vegetables to the wholesale of handicrafts such as cotton, jute and wood products: such merchandise provides many women in less economically developed areas with a substantial income within the domestic setting, drastically improving their quality of life. Perhaps his most admirable input has been his overall lack of delusion about the Fairtrade industry: he understands that it may keep farmers trapped in an unsustainable trade if they fail to diversify, yet he remains committed and realistic about the solutions required for the long-term diminution of social inequalities. His main piece of advice for young people is to retain enthusiasm and ‘ to match it with a degree of expertise and experience’.
A Durham sporting figure is surely worthy of a mention, and Sophie Hosking seems the perfect candidate given her incredible contribution to the 2012 Olympic effort, where she and her partner Copeland achieved Gold medals in the lightweight double sculls. Beating their Chinese competitors by two seconds, she stands as a perfect exemplar for University Students: hard working, resilient and a wonderful team player. Having studied for a science degree at Durham she is converting to Law for her retirement, having assured the BBC that “I put all of myself into the sport over the past 12 years and I am very proud of the athlete I became and the results that I achieved.”
Elsewhere, a brilliant Durham addition to British culture is David Sproxton, the co-founder of Aardman studios which bestowed us with the likes of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. Only a creative genius with a typically Durham-esque streak of eccentricity could have conceived and lucratively executed a feature length film based upon the ‘Great Escape’ using clay poultry. Before his time the notion of an entire movie using the stop-motion technique seemed ludicrous, and for this reason he remains an esteemed figure within the cartoon industry. Although he studied Geography here, he was always committed to the dextrous sculpting of his charmingly imperfect figurines- which the British public have come to value so highly. Despite the old school methodology of his art, his company has retained relevance having recently collaborated with Google on a 360 degrees short, and has conquered a multitude of avenues, including film, TV, partner content and digital rights.
To conclude we have Fiona Meashem, a professor in the Criminology department, who deserves recognition for her progressive research into the relationship between drug use and the UK dance scene. She has utilised her academic grounding to communicate effectively with government officials and the police about the worthiness of more thorough drug inquiry. Her focus is on local level decision making, and she has taken great effort to stress the dubious nature of government projections of falling drug use, given that class A drug consumption and drug related deaths are on the rise.
As the founder of the harm reduction NGO ‘The Loop’, a drug testing service operating at two independent festivals so far, she is a woman clearly interested in the welfare of the younger generation. With the need for her expertise growing, she estimates that roughly half a million people will have access to her potentially life-saving services in the following year. Her work can be perceived as a breakthrough that signals a shift away from the traditional dependence of drug policies upon penalisation, towards a focus on harm reduction and public health.
An apology is in order for all the illustrious alumni who I have failed to mention, and in the same way I must applaud the current bunch of incumbents and stars of tomorrow that are surely growing in presence and achievement around our cobbled streets and dimly-lit lecture halls.
Illustration: Charlotte Way