Biographical Summary

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Brian J Ford on a recent lecture tour

Brian J Ford is a prolific research scientist who launched major science programms for the BBC. His books pioneer new approaches in bringing science to the public. Over 100 editions of his books have been published around the world, and he appears in TV programmes produced in studios ranging from Hollywood to Delhi, and from Germany to Japan. He was a NESTA Fellow 2004-2007, was presented with the inaugural Köhler medal in America for his work in microscopy, and has been nominated for the prestigious Faraday Medal of the Royal Society in London. There is an online Nationmaster biography.

He is a prominent scientist, broadcaster and lecturer, who was writing a weekly newspaper column on science before he was a student. He studied biology at Cardiff University, but became dissatisfied with the direction science was taking, the subject of his books Nonscience (1971) and Cult of the Expert (1982). He left University to establish his own laboratory to work on a new interdisciplinary approach to scientific research. He was elected a Fellow of Cardiff University in 1986, has been a Member of the University Court since 1981, and has been President of the Association of Past Students. His innovative textbook Microbiology and Food, written in his twenties, addressed many of the issues he experienced as a student and soon established a new philosophy for food science. He has made unique contributions to science and is a world authority on the microscope (the subject of many of his best-selling books). A Google search for microscope research shows his site at No 1 in over 15,000,000 sites world-wide. His scientific papers have been published in many languages, though he is best known as a gifted expositor of science to the public.

He pioneered regular ‘science reports’ on television news, went on to introduce regular science to BBC radio with Start the Week and Newsbeat. He then launched his own programmes Science Now and Where Are You Taking Us? for the BBC, appeared as presenter on Food for Thought on Channel Four and then to host Computer Challenge on BBC Wales, the first science-based television game-show. He has broadcast on The Food Programme, Woman’s Hour, Newsnight, Any Questions? and Sky Television News. In 1998 he joined the annual Round Britain Quiz, partnering Lady Antonia Fraser, and he has featured in his Science Hour phone-in sessions for LBC. Ford’s popular book, BSE: The Facts was written in a week and published within a month, a record in scientific publishing.

Ford’s work has revolutionised many major areas of science. His BBC programmes (Science Now, for instance) broke new ground in the public accessibility of science and were enthusiastically reviewed. His major TV series Food for Thought was in the network top ten within its second week of transmission; it was widely used as a teaching aid in schools. From this stemmed his popular work The Food Book and his recent book The Future of Food. Another pioneering title was Microbe Power - Tomorrow’s Revolution, for this painted a detailed portrait of the importance of microorganisms. Ford’s microscope books, from Revealing Lens and Optical Microscope Manual to the more recent Single Lens and Leeuwenhoek Legacy have revolutionised our understanding of the development of this important branch of science. He works in London, Cambridge, Brussels and Chicago. In England he was highly influential as a Director of Mensa, and a member of Council and a Director of the National Science Centre project, whilst in the USA he has served on the boards of the McCrone Research Institute and the Van Leeuwenhoek Institute, has been appointed adviser to the National Science Foundation and is an Emeritus Fellow of the New York Academy of Science. At Cambridge University he is President of the Society for the Application of Research, and a member of Council of the Friends of the University Library.

His work is widely reported and discussed in journals including Scientific American, Nature, New Scientist, The Microscope and the British Medical Journal; his discoveries feature in many text-books and CD-ROMs. In addition to textbooks he has also written the popular 101 Questions about Science books. His First Encyclopaedia of Science (for the pre-teens) sold over 70,000 copies in a month. Brian J Ford contributes to The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Times. He is a leading broadcaster (Medical News devoted a leader to his TV appearances and said he was a ‘rare master of the art’), and he has appeared on TV with Michael Parkinson, Danny Baker, Lulu, Carol Vorderman and many others.

Among many posts, he held a Fellowship at the Open University 2001-2004; he is based at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University and is an honorary Member of Keynes College at the University of Kent. He is Visiting Professor at the Beyond Distance Research Alliance, University of Leicester. He is Chairman of the Committee for the History of Biology Network and former Member of Council at the Institute of Biology, London; Honorary Surveyor of Scientific Instruments and past Member of Council of the Linnean Society of London. He has travelled and lectured widely across Europe and the United States (where he has an annual lectureship), North and West Africa and the Middle East, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia including North Borneo, Thailand and Singapore; Australia including Tasmania, New Zealand, visiting Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. He has travelled widely in both Arctic and Antarctic regions. He is an enthusiastic student of island habitats, and has visited islands in the Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Aegean, Great Barrier Reef, Red Sea, extensively in the Caribbean, the Bahamas and the Cape Verde islands. He has played keyboards in a rock band, and can shoot, deep-sea dive, langlauf ski and fly a plane. An accomplished photographer (he has won many awards for his scientific photographs) he has also published poetry, cartoons and illustrations, and has appeared on television playing rhythm and blues. Recently he produced a microscope manual given to British schools as part of Science Year, and has published a book on GM crops that received enthusiastic reviews. Currently he has a 20,000 word chapter in press for a major physics textbook and has published several papers on the intelligence of living cells.