Hello! The following is loosely based on a presentation I gave to GeekUp Leeds on 18 February 2009, and again at Barcamp Leeds on 30 May 2009. I wanted to show why I find Leeds such an inspiring place to work and tell a few of my favourite stories about the city’s rich history of innovation.
It starts with an owl. Leeds’ coat of arms has three of them. In Greek mythology the owl is linked with Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. Native Americans thought an owl was a curious creature. Leeds has a history of people who asked “what if?”
Joseph Priestley lived near a brewery on Meadow Lane. He studied the gas in vats of beer and he invented a process for carbonating water. Fizzy pop! Priestley open-sourced the method, and a chap called Johann Schweppe cleaned up.
Priestley discovered that plants like this mint leaf could restore the bad air created by burning a flame in a jar. This led to the discoveries of oxygen, photosynthesis, and the interdependence of plants and animals on our planet.
Another kind of network: canals. Leeds’ links by water enabled import and export. The rain that filled the canals also contributed to our damp Yorkshire climate which was ideal for spinning and weaving cloth.