Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction

Sad News: John Maddox RIP


Nature announced today the death of John Maddox at the weekend. John was the editor of Nature for two long stints and was largely responsible for making it one of the prime scientific journals in the world today. I well remember his editorials when i was a graduate student.

I remember more, though, his time on the BBC Radio 3 programme ;Scientifically Speaking. I don’t know if Radio 3 still has a scientific spot, but in my school days SS was a highlight for me. Unlike Radio 4’s Science Now it covered one subject per programme and it covered it in depth. I still remember Maddox speaking at length about QED as I lay listening to it on my parents’ bed.

John Maddox had a very distinctive voice, one that worked well on radio. I wish he had done more on radio, and maybe television as well, but then we would have lost his role in making Nature what it is today. I suspect I’ll be looking at his book What Remains to be Discoevered at the weekend.


Author: davecl

Astronomy, science, science fiction

3 thoughts on “Sad News: John Maddox RIP

  1. For science on radio try Melvin Bragg Radio 4. A look at the programme archive will give you a flavour.

  2. My radio is permanently tuned to Radio 4 so I’m familiar with In Our Time.

    The difference between Bragg and Maddox, at least as I recall, was that he presented things himself from a position of knowledge rather than asking questions of experts. There was a meeting of equals rather than someone making themselves more informed and the audience at the same time. And of course Maddox was a scientist, with a PhD in particle physics, before he became a journalist.

  3. Maddox went to the leading ground-breakers of the day, and got them to explain for the intelligent lay listener the gist and context of what they were doing. He never talked down to the audience, but merely restated in his own words what he thought the expert had said, thus enabling those of us following the deliberations only tenuously to catch up. A natural teacher via the radio medium, he shaped my youth. I treasure the few tapes I have of his talks.

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