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What Science Did For Us

What Science Did For Us

Educated at Eton college, Adam Hart-Davis was always been a science nut, eventually gaining a first class degree in chemistry at Oxford University and a DPhil in organometallic chemistry at the University of York.

After six years as a researcher at Yorkshire Television he was promoted to producer, and worked on a wide variety of science programmes. In the 1990s, he moved in front of the camera and made his first big series, Local Heroes - riding around the countryside looking at scientists from history. Other programs followed, most importantly What the Romans did for us and Tomorrows World. Dave Hall caught up with him.

What was your favourite subject at school?
Chemistry in fact.

Who do you most admire in the science world?
Bob May [ex-president of the Royal Society and former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government - Ed] although my inspiration is David Attenborough - he has been the best science presenter on television.

Good choice. What got you interested in the media?
I enjoy sharing ideas with other people. One of my greatest achievements is that I have inspired some kids to want to study science.

What do you think is the most important invention ever made?
The Newcomen engine - invented by Dartmouth ironmonger Thomas Newcomen in 1712 - because it was the first useful steam engine, and the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Adam, painted by Ros Cuthbert, 2005.What about an invention you’d like to have come up with yourself?
A remote control to switch off everyone else’s mobile phones within 20 metres.

Very useful! If you had not become a scientist, what would you have done?
I’d have been a photographer, because I love taking pictures. I also write and read in my spare time.

What country would you most like to visit and why?
China, because I have not been there, or Death Valley.

Do you think science is reaching the right audience on television?
No. There should be much more of it on television.

In your latest book “Why does a ball bounce? And 100 other questions from the world of science”, were there any questions and answers that surprised you?
Yes - like why are there bubbles up the middle of icicles?

Why are there?
As the ice forms, minerals and dissolved air concentrate in the remaining liquid (as it freezes last) so the appearance gives bubbles in the middle.

What is next on your agenda for presenting in 2006?
I’m making five radio programmes on ‘Engineering solutions’, one TV programme about the planet Venus, and eight TV programmes on ‘how London was built’.

Finally, the $64,000 question: Marmite - love it or hate it?
Love it - I had some for breakfast this morning.

Get hold of a copy of AHD's book
Why does a ball bounce? in the Null Shop.


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17 Jul 2011
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