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Dr Peter Wothers: Gods, Devils and Alcohol

Dr Peter Wothers: Gods, Devils and Alcohol

Friday 27 September, 7pm

This lively lecture, based around the composition of everyday shampoo, explores the often-convoluted history behind the names of the ingredients. What connects a urinating camel to a spiral fossil?  What was the significance of a birthing rat? How did Egyptian eyeliner end up making us drunk, but amethyst kept us sober?

Under the surface of the dry, impenetrable code understood only by the initiated, the language of the chemist contains a fascinating insight into the ideas and achievements of mankind through the ages from astrology to zoology. With a few explosive reactions along the way, this lecture guarantees you will never look at a bottle of shampoo in quite the same way again!

Tickets are free and are available here. If you have any enquiries or accessibility requirements please telephone us on 01904 527315 or email

Please either print off your ticket or display it to us on your smartphone or tablet on the evening.

About the speaker

Dr Peter WothersDr Peter Wothers is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge and a Fellow and Director of Studies in Chemistry at St Catharine’s College. Aside from lecturing to Natural Science undergraduates at Cambridge, he is involved with a number of projects bridging the transition between sixth-form and university. 

He was instrumental in developing the syllabus for the Chemistry Pre-University qualification and acted as the Senior Examiner for the final years of the Chemistry STEP before it was replaced first by the Advanced Extension Awards, and then the A*.

For over ten years Peter has been involved with the Chemistry Olympiad, organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry, setting challenging papers for Year 13 students. He organised the 41st International Chemistry Olympiad in Cambridge in 2009 and is also currently the Chair of the Steering Committee for the IChO. Working with colleagues and teachers across the country he has recently created the popular Cambridge Chemistry Challenge, C3L6, with both an international online competition and a demanding written paper aimed at year 12 students in the UK.

He has authored a number of popular textbooks including the first edition of Organic Chemistry with Clayden, Greeves and Warren, and Chemical Structure and Reactivity with colleague James Keeler. 

Peter is heavily involved in promoting chemistry to young students and members of the public and has fronted the lectures at the department for the Cambridge Science Festival for over 15 years. He was awarded the 2011 President's Award by the Royal Society of Chemistry for his out-reach activities. He has a keen interest in the history of chemistry and has amassed a significant collection of early works on the subject.

Peter presented the 2012 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, The Modern Alchemist.  The Christmas Lectures are aimed at young people and were initiated in 1825 by Michael Faraday.