The science writer Nigel Calder has died, aged 82, after a short illness.
Calder was editor of New Scientist magazine in its early days, and pioneered the popularisation of science through television documentaries. He is survived by his wife, Liz, and their five children and seven grandchildren.
Nigel Calder was born in London on 2 December 1931. He was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School and, after National Service, the University of Cambridge. He became editor of New Scientist in 1962, and later left to write flagship science documentaries for BBC Television. The first, in 1969, was Violent Universe, in which he wrote: “We live in a relatively peaceful suburb of a quiet galaxy of stars, while all around us, far away in space, events of unimaginable violence occur.” The Wall Street Journal review read: “It outstrips all kinds of fictional adventure. It is hard to conceive of a more exciting book.”
I’ve gotta be driftin’ along
The Independent newspaper (UK) has published an obituary.
He was a key figure in the creation of a highly successful British weekly science magazine. He was a prolific author who published almost 40 popular books. But most of all he educated, excited and inspired countless millions of television viewers, taking them from the comfort of their living rooms to the exhilarating high frontier of modern science.
During the 1990s much of his work was for the European Space Agency. It was during this decade that Calder became embroiled in climate debate. In The Manic Sun: Weather Theories Confounded, he reported the controversial work of the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark, who claims that climate responds principally to cloud cover, which he contends is governed by fluctuations in high-energy particles from space known as cosmic rays.
Calder was predisposed to tell such a story because he had seen how, in the case of Wegener and continental drift, one man, despite being right, had been frozen out by the scientific community. He wrote: “When Nazi scientists showed their solidarity against the Jewish doctrine of relativity, in a book called A Hundred Against Einstein, the hairy fellow growled that one would be enough. He meant that adverse evidence from Nature produced by a solitary researcher could destroy theories that no amount of ranting could touch.”
May Nigel’s wit and wisdom live on forever in all of us.