Top Scientist, Professor Sarah Hainsworth inspires GCSE Science and History students at Turves Green Girls’ School on the death blows of King Richard III

Professor Sarah Hainsworth

World renowned forensic scientist and engineer, Professor Hainsworth, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University shared her expertise with 80 Yr10 and Yr11 students from Turves Green Girls’ School on 23rd October.

Professor Hainsworth led the research into the final death blows of King Richard III during her time at the University of Leicester. She spoke about her scientific analysis of the wounds found on the skeleton of King Richard III. This related the tool marks to possible weapons and identified through the study of forensics the exact nature of his death at the Battle of Bosworth, 1485. She also explained how scientists proved that his curvature of the spine, made famous by Shakespeare’s hunched backed king, was in fact the bone disease scoliosis.

Skeleton of King Richard IIIShe shared her research with the pupils and explained how scientists and archaeologists worked together to identify the skeleton discovered beneath a council car park in Leicester in 2012 as those of King Richard III. Isotope analysis of his teeth showed him to be someone of power and wealth who enjoyed a rich diet and she demonstrated the DNA link to know living descendants of the Plantagenet line. Professor Hainsworth also showed how modern forensic techniques were used, such as a series of CT scans, to map the wounds inflicted on the king during and after the battle to determine his final moments – these were extremely gruesome!

Students were shocked by the brutality of his death. Professor Hainsworth’ s team identified that a sword or battle-axe spike was thrust four inches into the Richard’s head by King Henry VII’s forces and was then mutilated after his body was slung over a horse. He suffered a total of eleven wounds around the time of his death, nine to his skull and two to the rest of his body.

The students all donned 3D glasses to watch a computer simulation showing how Richard’s injuries are consistent with contemporary accounts that his body was thrown over a horse and mutilated by angry bystanders – the last king to die in battle in England.

Headteacher, Neil Jones said, “Professor Hainsworth is passionate about encouraging women to take up science and engineering careers and promoting the many different career opportunities available through STEM subject choices. Her talk this afternoon was fascinating. She is a terrific role model and her message of high aspirations and excellence is something which we thoroughly endorse.”

Professor Hainsworth’s presentation is just one of the many STEM opportunities available to students at Turves Green Girls’ School throughout the year. Recent government research has shown that there is an annual shortfall of up to 59,000 engineering graduates and technicians to fill core roles. Encouraging more girls to follow science subjects at a higher level is really important for meeting these shortages and reducing the gender pay-gap between men and women. Women make up just 16% of all engineering degree entrants are female and only 8% of all engineering apprenticeships in the UK.

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