Carbon: Roles in the Development & Fate of Humanity

Monica Grady is Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences in the School of Physical Sciences at the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes. She has led major research programmes in the study of the origin and evolution of the Solar System through analysis of meteorites, the Moon, Mars, asteroids and comets. Her particular research interests are in carbon and nitrogen chemistry. In honour of her contributions to the field, the International Astronomical Union named Asteroid (4731) as “Monicagrady”. In June 2012, she was appointed a Commander in the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her services to Space Sciences and in July 2019 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by Liverpool Hope University for her work on Science and Faith. She was appointed Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University in January 2020.

Talk: Element 6: Carbon and its many roles in the Development and Fate of Humanity

Element 6 is carbon, a really versatile element, diamond hard and candy floss soft. In combination with other elements, especially hydrogen and oxygen, it can exist as a solid, a liquid or a gas. And it’s the basis for life. The story of carbon is one of cycles: the astronomical cycle, moving from the interstellar medium into stars, then out again when the stars die. There is a series of interlinked cycles on Earth that move carbon between the atmosphere, the rocky crust and the biosphere. Global climate change occurs when the delicate balance between these cycles is upset. We need carbon for life, but too much of it, and we’re as good as dead.

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