Dr Iolo ap Gwynn FRMS
Scientist, mountaineer, and patron of Humanists UK
Although I have held a belief in atheism for many years, only fairly recently have I become more convinced that religious belief, based in ignorance and mythology, is one of the major threats to peace and our survival on this planet. Our only hope for the future is to base our actions on rational thought and analysis – with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of human behavioural tendencies and the science of life on Earth. I very much support the work of Humanists UK as an organisation that is dedicated to enlighten our fellow human beings to this need.
Dr Iolo ap Gwynn was born in London to Welsh-speaking parents. His father Harri Gwynn was then a civil servant, with an MA in history, and his mother Eirwen Gwynn was the first woman to gain a PhD in Physics in the University of Wales. In 1950 they moved to a farm in Eifionydd, supplementing their income by writing, lecturing and broadcasting, initially on radio and later on TV.
Being brought up close to nature, on the farm, gave him an early interest in the natural world, which eventually resulted in BSc and PhD degrees in zoology at Aberystwyth, following secondary school at Ysgol Eifionydd , Porthmadog. Being brought up close to the mountains of Eryri (Snowdonia) provided the opportunity to explore the area and develop a love of mountains and lifelong skills in mountaineering both in the UK and the Alps. He was a founder member and first chair of Clwb Mynydda Cymru (The Welsh Mountaineering Club). He continues to be the webmaster for the club and has published books on mountaineering. He has also been a member and Vice Chair of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, a member of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
Board of Trustees, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Centre for Alternative Technology , as well as Chair of the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere Partnership. He has been involved with broadcasting in Wales, both on radio and television for many years and has presented as well as scripted many programmes on science and mountaineering. He also contributes regularly to the Munud i Feddwl (the Welsh version of Thought for the Day) slot on BBC Cymru. In his home community of Tal-y-bont, he is still involved with the publishing of the community newspaper Papur Pawb . He has also been a keen photographer since school days.
At retirement, he was a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences of Aberystwyth University having also spent a study-leave period as Visiting Professor at the AO Research Institute, Davos, Switzerland. With research interests in cell biology and electron microscopy he was Chair of the UK Cryo-Microscopy Group as well as running the only Masters course in Biological Electron Microscopy in Europe. He was a founder member and first Chair of Y Gymdeithas Wyddonol Genedlaethol (The Welsh Scientific Society). He was an invited lecturer and organiser of many international conferences. A special tribute was paid to him and his scientific work at the 2008 eCM Conference in Davos, Switzerland. He has also lectured to evening classes and various conferences on environmental and biodiversity matters. He was also editor of the University of Wales science journals Y Gwyddonydd and Delta and is currently Production Editor of the European Cells and Materials journal. He published over 150 scientific papers and articles. In 2008, he was awarded the Science Medal of the National Eisteddfod of Wales for his contribution to science in Wales and in the following year was invited to present the National Eisteddfod annual lecture on What Darwin and Wallace did not know. In 2020, he was made an Honorary Fellow of Y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.
Iolo married his schooldays sweetheart, Ellen, in 1968, they have three grown-up children and six grandchildren. They have lived in Tal-y-bont, in a self-built house near Aberystwyth, for over 30 years.