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Plenary Speakers

Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, #1 NYT-bestselling Outlander novels, described by Salon magazine as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science PhD with a background in scripting ‘Scrooge McDuck’ comics.” As of January 2022, Diana’s books are published in 38 languages and sold in 114 countries. The adventure began in 1991 with the classic Outlander  (“historical fiction with a Moebius twist"), and has continued through eight more internationally bestselling novels in the series so far. These books feature the story of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser and Jamie Fraser, and include elements of time travel and lots of real Scottish and American history. The latest novel in Diana’s Outlander series of major novels is Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone, which was first published in the U.S.A., Canada, the U.K., and Germany on November 23, 2021. Bees debuted at number one on the New York Times list and is also an international bestseller. She is currently writing and doing the background research for Book 10 of the Outlander novels, as yet untitled. Diana serves as a co-producer and advisor for the popular Outlander TV series, which is produced by the Starz network and Tall Ship Productions and distributed by Sony International. The show is an adaptation of her OUTLANDER series of novels. She has also written the scripts for several episodes and made a cameo appearance in the first season. Dr Diana J. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology. (Plus she was granted an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters, which entitles her to be "Diana Gabaldon, Ph.D., D.H.L."  She supposes this is better than “Diana Gabaldon, Phd.X.”) Diana worked a dozen years as a university professor before beginning to write her first novel, Outlander, in 1989. Through the late 1980s, she wrote scientific articles and textbooks, worked as a contributing editor on the MacMillan ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMPUTERS, founded the scientific-computation journal Science Software Quarterly, contributed articles to tech magazines such as Infoworld, and wrote numerous comic-book scripts for Walt Disney. Diana was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow in 2022. 

Professor Sir Geoff (Godfrey) Palmer

Professor Sir Geoff (Godfrey) Palmer was born in Jamaica in 1940. He migrated to London in 1955 and unexpectedly had to return to school because he was one month younger than the school leaving age of 15 years. He was designated ‘educationally sub-normal’ and attended a Secondary Modern School. In 1958 he secured a job as a Junior Laboratory Technician at Queen Elizabeth College where Professor Palmer ‘changed’ his name from Godfrey to Geoff and assisted his entrance to Leicester University in 1961. 

He gained an Honours Degree in Botany in 1964 from the University of Leicester, a PhD Degree in 1967 from the University of Edinburgh and the then Heriot-Watt College. He also completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in grain science at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University in 1968. At the Brewing Research Foundation (1968 to 1977) he used the fundamental research from his PhD to develop the industrial process of Barley Abrasion and pioneered the use of the Scanning Electron Microscope to study cereal grains. In 1977, he returned to the Heriot-Watt University as a staff member, gained a DSc degree for his research work in 1985, retired in 2005 and became Chancellor of the Heriot-Watt University in 2021.

He sits on the Boards of Community Organisations and has received Honorary Degrees from various academic institutions, and is an honorary graduate of the University of Glasgow. His awards include an OBE (2003) and Knighthood (2014) for his scientific research, charity, and human rights work. He was the fifth recipient and the first European resident to gain a distinguished research award from the American Society of Brewing Chemist, which is considered the 'Nobel prize' of brewing. His work on the history of the enslavement of African people as British slaves has led him to work on slavery projects with the University of Glasgow and to chair projects set up by the City of Edinburgh Council, the Scottish Government on Museums and the University of Edinburgh. In 2021 the University of Leicester gave him its Diversity and Inclusion award as part of its centenary celebrations. He has published books on race relations and cereal science and technology. He is the first Honorary Consul for Jamaica in Scotland and the Freeman of Midlothian. In 2021 he received the Pride of Scotland’s Lifetime Award and in 2022 he was made an Honorary Keeper of the Quaich by the distilling industry. Sir Geoff has researched, written and lectured extensively on Scotland’s black slavery history. He was also appointed Jamaica’s first Honorary Consul (CD) in Scotland. 

Professor Murray Pittock 

Murray Pittock MAE FRSE is Pro Vice-Principal and Bradley Professor of Literature at the University of Glasgow. A prize lecturer for both the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy, he was elected to the European Academy for his work on Scotland in a global context in 2020. His works include Scotland: The Global History (2022, 2023), Enlightenment in a Smart City (2019), Culloden (2016, 2017, 2021, 2022), a standard work on Jacobite material culture (Material Culture and Sedition (2013)), The Myth of the Jacobite Clans (1995, 1999, 2009), Scottish and Irish Romanticism (2008, 2011), Jacobitism (1998), Poetry and Jacobite Politics in Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland (1994, 2006) and The Invention of Scotland (1991, 2014, 2016).  He is currently working on a study of British military and political policy in Scotland. His books have received around a dozen Book of the Year or similar nominations - Culloden was a History Today Book of the Year and House of Commons book choice - and have been featured on BBC 1, Radio 4, Radio Scotland and elsewhere. Murray has held visiting appointments in Dublin, New York, Notre Dame, Prague, Yale and elsewhere and contributes to the media internationally, acting also as consultant and royal commentator. He is general editor of the £1 million Collected Works of Allan Ramsay, funded by UK Research and Innovation and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Murray is co-Chair of the Scottish Arts and Humanities Alliance, a Trustee of the National Trust for Scotland,  and sits on the board of the Scottish Council for Global Affairs and NISE,  which brings together research on nationalism in Europe.

Dr Katherine Byrne

Katherine Byrne lectures in English at Ulster University. She is the author of Tuberculosis and the Victorian Literary Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and Edwardians on Screen: From Downton Abbey to Parade's End (Palgrave, 2015), and is the co-author of Rape in Period Drama Television: Consent, Myth and Fantasy (with Julie Anne Taddeo, Lexington Books, March 2022). She is one of the editors of Conflicting Masculinities: Men in Television Period Drama (IB Tauris, 2018) and Diagnosing History (Manchester UP, 2022). Her research interests include Victorian literature and medicine, adaptation and period drama, women's writing, and Gothic studies, and she has published widely in all these areas.

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