What does it take to be an inventor?

7.00pm to 8.30pm, Tuesday 14 January

The Theatre

The Royal Institution of Great Britain GB United Kingdom W1S 4BS 21 Albemarle Street London

This event has already taken place

  • Credit: James Jones


Standard £16


Concession £10


Ri Members and Ri Patrons £7

Event description

What does it take to be an inventor? Judging by the ingenious individuals who have been interviewed by Jim Al-Khalili on The Life Scientific on BBC Radio 4, there is no simple answer.

In this talk, Jim and some of his most inventive guests explore the secret of their success and how their inventions are changing our world.

About the speakers

Ailie MacAdam is a senior vice president of Bechtel Corporation and operations manager for Bechtel Infrastructure. Ailie leads the delivery of tailored solutions for customers in the rail, aviation, communications, power, roads, and tunneling sectors. During her more than 30-year career at Bechtel, Ailie has successfully led major infrastructure projects in the U.K., U.S., and Australia. In addition, she worked on oil, gas, and chemicals projects in Europe and Africa.

Dr Caroline Hargrove is distinguished for her pioneering simulation of human-machine interaction, initially in motor racing and subsequently in sport and medical applications. She has been Technical Director of McLaren Applied Technologies since 2013, leading the engineering teams concerned with motorsport, elite and professional sports, transport, energy and medical services. These include surgical performance assessment and care path optimisation in the Nuffield Department of Surgery at Oxford, where she is a visiting professor. She takes part in school and media events as a STEM ambassador, actively encouraging school leavers into the engineering profession.

Mark Miodownik is a materials engineer and Professor of Materials and Society at UCL where he teaches and runs a research group. Mark received his Ph.D in turbine jet engine alloys from Oxford University, and has worked as a materials scientist in the USA, Ireland and the UK. For more than ten years he has championed materials research that links the arts and humanities to medicine, engineering and materials science. This culminated in the establishment of the UCL Institute of Making where he is Director and runs the research programme. His current research interests are animate materials, innovative manufacturing, and sensoaesthetic materials.

Prof Adrian Thomas is the Director of Studies in Biological Sciences at Lady Margaret Hall. He runs the animal flight research group in Zoology. He uses aerodynamic theory to predict optimal morphologies for specific aspects of flight ecology (flight missions), and test the predictions with phylogenetically controlled comparative methods, with mechanical model organisms, and with free-flying or swimming animals in the laboratory, or in the field. He is chairman of the Flight section of the Bionis International Biomimetics Network. He is aerodynamics consultant with Airwave GMBH paraglider, hangglider and ultralight aircraft manufacturers.

Your chair for the evening is Jim Al-Khalili. Jim has presented The Life Scientific on Radio 4 since 2011. Although his ‘day job’ is as an academic professor of physics at the University of Surrey, where he also has a chair in the public engagement in science, he has achieved wider prominence as a public scientist, author and broadcaster. He has fronted a number of radio and television documentaries, mainly on BBC4, including Chemistry: A Volatile History, which was nominated for a BAFTA in 2010.  


The doors will open at approximately 6.30pm, with a prompt start at 7.00pm. There will be time for questions after the talk.

Latecomers will be admitted into the gallery.

Book signing

Copies of 'The Life Scientific: Inventors' will be available for purchase and signing after the talk. 


The theatre is on the first floor. Due to an engineering fault, there is currently no step-free access to the theatre. 

The closest underground station is Green Park, which is step-free.

There is space at floor level in the theatre for wheelchair users.

Seating is usually unreserved for our events. If you and your group require seating reservations, please do let us know by email and we’ll be more than happy to help. Email: events@ri.ac.uk.

Carers can receive a free ticket to an event by emailing events@ri.ac.uk.

Our theatre is equipped with an Audio Induction Loop. 

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