Adam Hart-Davis is a tremendously enthusiastic television presenter of many highly
successful television programmes, some for kids, some for the grown-ups. He's the kind of guy you either love
for his slight eccentricity, or hate for being a plainly unhinged trainspottery type; a man who is over-excited
by virtually all amateur science experiments. If the British government are serious about
halting the slide in enthusiasm for scientific studies, and the decline in numbers of applicants for science degrees, they should invest their entire budget surplus in research into cloning
techniques, with a view to installing an Adam Hart-Davis in every science classroom in the
country. Of course, some folk just find him intensely annoying, and I'm not sure how I'd
cope trapped in a lift with him, but taken in half-hour small-screen doses, he is
generally engrossing and educational.
Born in 1943, he studied for an MA at Oxford University, and was awarded a First in
Chemistry, before moving on to study Organometallic Chemistry in York for his
Doctorate. He began his televison life as a researcher for Yorkshire Television in 1977.
His first major success came in 1985, with Scientific Eye, a schools programme used
in the majority of English schools, and in 36 countries worldwide.
Since then he has presented a host of BBC programmes, including seven series of
Local Heroes, for which he has travelled the length and breadth of his home country
bringing to life the stories, lives, and experiments of dead scientists, famous and
forgotten, featuring eminent scholars and enthusiastic amateurs alike. He recently presented the latest series of the BBC's long-running prime-time science programme, Tomorrow's World, and can currently be seen enjoying a bungee tower and abseiling down a tall building in adverts encouraging us all to fill in our tax returns.
Hart-Davis has a great penchant for experiment and demonstration. During the course of one
series of "What the Romans did for us", he built a Roman road across sand dunes,
constructed an aqueduct to fill a bath, feasted on Roman food (including a delightful
fish-based dessert...), and spent a large amount of time enjoying a Roman bath. Too much
time really, involving as it did an unattractive lack of clothing. In a later series, Science Shack, an Open University programme, he was once again in a hot bath, this time drinking champagne, watching re-runs of his own shows, and eating warm vol-au-vents, all to show that luxury would still be attainable if we ran out of fossil fuels.
The bath scenes were fairly unusual by Hart-Davis standards, rare moments in which he
was not to be seen riding or leaning on his bicycle, decked out in his now familiar garish
bright pink and yellow garb. (His reasoning behind the colours is, of course, that he wants to
stay alive, something he has achieved with 100% success to date.)
Hart-Davis has published a number of books in addition to his TV work. Many are tie-ins with his TV work, but he also has works published on
Henry Winstanley and the Eddystone Lighthouse, and Thomas Crapper.
Sources and resources:
and fellow everythingians stupot and szlater, for reminding me, respectively, of science shack and its bath experiment, and Tomorrow's World. Thank you.