Wessex Worthies: Thomas Young

Andrew Robinson's biography of Milverton-born polymath Thomas Young (1773–1829) is entitled The Last Man Who Knew Everything. It seems like an apt description of a man who made notable contributions to the fields of medicine, physics, music theory and Egyptology.

Young was born to a Quaker family, the eldest of ten children, though he converted to the Church of England in 1804 in order to marry Eliza Maxwell. By the age of 15, he already knew Latin and Greek. He studied medicine in London and Edinburgh before finally obtaining his doctorate from the University of Göttingen in Lower Saxony. He became both a Fellow of the Royal Society and an honorary foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His achievements in medicine include deriving formulae for determining the wave speed of the pulse, and a child's dose of medicine.

In physics, he was an early proponent of the wave theory of light, as opposed to the particle theory favoured by Isaac Newton and others.

Young was one of the translators of the Rosetta Stone, which constituted a major advance in the study of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Young died of complications from asthma at the age of just 55., and is buried at Westminster Abbey. His name lives on in the Thomas Young Centre at the University of London, and at Young Sound in Greenland.

Wessex Attractions: Portland House

Portland House is a National Trust-owned hotel in Dorset. Built in the 1930s in California Mission Revival style. Its original decor has been preserved where possible.

Overlooking Portland harbour, it makes a great base for exploring the Jurassic Coast, and nearby attractions such as Hardy's Cottage.

The full address is: 24 Belle Vue Rd, Weymouth DT4 8RZ, Please note that booking is currently limited due to lockdown restrictions.

Wessex Attractions: Ballard Down

Ballard Down is an area of chalk downland in Purbeck, owned by the National Trust. It is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

Visible from the downs are Old Harry's Rocks which, like The Needles, were once part of a range of chalk hills that became partially submerged as sea levels rose. Legend has it that they got their name because The Devil once took a nap on the rocks.

An obelisk on the downs commemorates the provision of a supply of drinking water to Swanage in 1883. It was taken down during World War 2 to prevent the Luftwaffe from using it to navigate, but re-erected in 1952.

The downs are home to several are butterfly species, including the Blue Adonis. The 2017 BBC adaptation of Howard's End by EM Forster was partly filmed there.

The postcode for satnav purposes is BH19 3DG, and the 50 Breezer Morebus service between Bournemouth and Swanage stops half a mile from the site.

Wessex Attractions: Figsbury Ring

Figsbury Ring is an Iron Age hill fort near Salisbury with an older, possibly Neolitihic enclosure. 18th and 19th century antiquarians misattributed it to the Romans, as was often the case with prehistoric sites, and it was previously known as Chlorus's Camp. It is not clear who Chlorus was, or whether he was the Chlorus of Greek mythology, whose son Thessalus supposedly gave his name to Thessaly. The site was the basis for Cadbury Rings, a location featured in EM Forster's novel The Longest Journey.

The postcode, for satnav purposes, is SP4 6DT. The site is served by bus numbers 87 and 88 from Salisbury.

Wessex On Screen: The Silence

The Silence is a 2010 BBC 4-episode mini-series set in Bristol, though filmed on Dublin. It tells the story of a young deaf woman who witnesses the murder of a police officer. It was the first starring role for deaf actress Genevieve Barr, who had to learn sign language for the role, as she had previously relied on hearing aids.

The series won Best Supporting Actress awards for its co-star Dervla Kerwan at the Irish Film and Television Awards, and the Golden Dagger Awards. It also won two further IFTAs for its director Dearbhla Walsh, and for its sound design. It was subsequently released on DVD.