Born 4 July 1943.
Education: Eton College, A- and S-levels in physics, chemistry, and maths;
1 year VSO teaching English in central India;
MA (Oxon) – First in chemistry; D Phil (York) in organometallic chemistry.
Three years’ post-doctoral research in Canada and the UK.
Five years publishing science books for the Oxford University Press.
Seventeen years making programmes with Yorkshire Television.
I have lived for one year in India and for three in Western Canada; I speak a little Japanese, a little German, and a little French.
Currently freelance, I take photographs, write articles and books, mostly about science.
I am married to the psychologist Dr Susan Blackmore
I enjoy taking scientific photographs, specially close-ups of things such as: fibre optics, milk and water drops, bursting balloons, and spiders’ webs. My pictures have appeared in many magazines and books, and in a dozen national newspapers. My book Why Does a Ball Bounce: and 100 other questions from the worlds of science is based on some of the scientific ones (see the Books page).
Television (most recent first)
My most recent TV series were for The History Channel, Just Another Day (the science and technology of everyday life) and How Britain was Built (shot in Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Newcastle). I have appeared on Celebrity Mastermind, Richard and Judy(3 times), Have I Got News For You, University Challenge, Only Connect, Pointless and various other programmes.
I presented for BBC2 one programme on the Top Ten Treasures of the British Museum, four programmes on What the Stuarts did for us, four programmes on What the Tudors Did for Us, eight programmes on What the Victorians Did for Us, and six programmes on What the Romans Did for Us. I have also presented two six-part series on current science and technology (Science Shack), 14 chat shows with top scientists for Mag Rack, an American Science Channel, 12 Tomorrow’s World programmes for BBC1, five Science in Focus programmes for C4 Schools, three programmes called Adam Hart-Davis Says Come to your Senses, and four programmes called Live from Dinosaur Island. In addition, I have made 35 history programmes (Hart-Davis on History), eight programmes about the history of London for Carlton (Secret City)and a total of 22 programmes on How London was Built for ITV London and The History Channel.
In 1990, fat and unfit, I bought a pink-and-yellow mountain bike in an attempt to change shape; instead I changed direction, and became a presenter. I have presented eight series of Local Heroes from the bike, riding around the country talking about dead scientists and doing demonstrations. The first two (1992 and -3) were regional series for YTV. In On the Edge(1994), a scientific look at the East coast, we covered everything from the science of fish and chips to the colour of Henry VIII’s socks. The other six series of Local Heroes were on BBC2, finishing in summer 2000.
I invented and produced Scientific Eye, the most successful school science series on TV – which was used in some 70 per cent of UK secondary schools, and in 35 other countries. This was followed by Mathematical Eye (1989-92) – the most successful school maths series. I also produced Fun & Games, an audience-participation studio series based on mathematical puzzles, The Battle of the Bottle-Snatchers (for BBC’s QED), a co-production with the Japanese TV company NHK, and five programmes about Loch Ness for Discovery Channel (1993).
In 1977 I worked as a researcher with Magnus Pyke, and the first item I did was about why banana skins are slippery. After Don’t Ask Me and Don’t Just Sit There (studio shows with Magnus Pyke and David Bellamy) came Where There’s Life (with Miriam Stoppard and Rob Buckman), and Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World. In 1985 I produced Arthur C Clarke’s World of Strange Powers.
I have presented 20 documentaries called Inventors Imperfect, plus six High Resolution, four Elements of Surprise, five on Reinventing the Wheel, 20 on Eureka Years, and 12 on Engineering Solutions. In 2004 I also appeared in the Radio 4 panel game Inspiration and have taken part in various other programmes .