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Genius Students Move into Unchartered Waters

Originally published 10 February 2004

Gifted students are set to move into unchartered waters as they research the history of medicine and how perceptions of water have changed through the ages as part of an outreach event organised by the National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY), based at the University of Warwick, on 14th February.

Twenty students aged 12-16 from across England will ‘take the waters’ at The Royal Pump Room and Baths in Leamington Spa to explore the curative properties of the water, and perhaps even boost their genius, with the healing powers of the spa.

Students will explore the health giving properties of water as well as its role as a source of great danger, at a time when water had a very different image from today.

Dr Hilary Marland, from the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick, said: “Up to the nineteenth century water was in short supply, dirty and unhealthy. Washing was considered highly risky and indulged in only very occasionally. Water supplies, especially in growing urban communities, were filthy. The students will explore water from a medicinal viewpoint and the idea that the consumption of large quantities of water as beneficial is of very recent origin. However, one exception to this was the spa.”

From ancient times particular types of water have been seen to have almost magical health-giving properties and the ability to cure many different ailments. Ancient springs were tapped in the eighteenth century and the spa cure developed as a medical treatment and major form of tourism. It was claimed Spa treatment cured a huge number of disorders including, rigidity of the joints, the effects of gout and rheumatism and various paralytic conditions.

By focusing on the detective work of nineteenth-century doctors, particularly Dr John Snow, students will examine how they established a link between water supply and the spread of cholera. The students will also use their investigative skills to explore how the reforms of doctors and government, and water engineering projects, finally made water safe.

Professor Deborah Eyre, from NAGTY at the University of Warwick, said: “Gifted students are often very creative at dealing with complex issues, and the history and medical science of water is a stimulating topic. Pupils with high potential need to have the opportunity to become high-achievers, and giftedness needs to be brought out through access to challenging opportunities. Outreach events add to their school curriculum and give the students a real challenge, that is different from the learning experience they get on a day-to-day basis. They are encouraged to tackle problems they may never have previously been encouraged to think about.”

In the morning of the one-day course students visit the Leamington Spa Pump Rooms, 'take the waters', and think about why the spa became such a popular form of treatment during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During a tour of the spa museum students will investigate the health giving benefits of water. The afternoon session turns to the negative aspects of water as dirty and dangerous, and the filth and stink of nineteenth-century rivers and water supplies.

Contacts: Jenny Murray, Communications Office, University of Warwick, Tel: 02476 574 255, Mobile: 07876 21 7740

Photo Opportunity Saturday 14 February 11.30am - Gifted students ‘take the waters’ at The Royal Pump Room and Baths in Leamington Spa and boost their genius with the ‘magical properties’ of the spa waters.