Sunday, September 18, 2011 - 09:00

Scientist and television presenter Professor Iain Stewart has safely emerged from a sealed container full of plants after 48 hours of living off the oxygen they produce.

The unique experiment was conducted to demonstrate the importance of plants to human survival. Iain left the chamber on Saturday night (September 17).

Alistair Griffiths, the Eden Project's Horticultural Science Curator and one of the scientists working with the BBC on this project, said: “This exciting experiment is completely in tune with what we do at the Eden Project. It brilliantly illustrates our reliance on plants in an engaging, visual way.”

The experiment was filmed for a major new BBC TWO documentary series called How Plants Made the World (provisional title). The 6m by 2m by 2.5m airtight chamber in which Iain lived was situated in the spectacular surroundings of the Rainforest Biome at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Iain was attached to various medical sensors which record his vital signs. Specialist doctors from University College London’s Centre for Altitude Space and Extreme Environment Medicine and the Royal Free Hospital were on site at all times and carried out various tests on Iain.

The experiment echoes the experiment first tried by the pioneering scientist Joseph Priestly. In 1772 he showed that a mouse could survive in an airtight chamber full of plants yet could only live a short time in a box without them. It was an early demonstration of the importance of plants in creating the oxygen essential for life on earth.

See our blog for more information on the experiment.