I’ve never liked the idea of the wild haired mad boffin, because I’ve always thought that it suggests that scientists can never be normal people (like i think I am) and not continually blowing up things and themselves. So my role model was a pretty normal guy, from a very humble background who worked hard, invented something which saved hundreds of lives (the Miner’s safety Lamp), loved experiments and had fun with laughing gas and rose to the top of the tree as president of the Royal Society- Humphrey Davy
I suppose this would have to be Isaac Newton he pretty much invented the science of physics on his own! He studied many things including forces, light and gravity and when he needed to do the maths to work things out he invented the equations he needed as well – a really smart scientist but,according to the people who knew him, he wasn’t particularly nice…..
1. David Attenborough (broadcaster and naturalist – not sure he’d call himself a scientist)
2. David Bellamy (botanist)
3. Carl Sagan (cosmologist
4. John Padday
The first three I remembered for their TV appearances, but John Padday was a friend of my grandparents, and was known to be a “scientist” I didn’t know him very well, but he always spent time talking to me about science, and encouraging me. He worked on thin films (I think) for Kodak. Incredibly he nearly went up in the space shuttle but unfortunately the programme to put civilians into space was stopped after the Challenger Disaster. He was a very gentle, thoughtful man, who exuded an infectious sense of wonder about the natural world.
That’s a good question. I’m trying to think of a good answer but I suspect that I may not have had any idols. Probably because I didn’t know much about the history of science back then. However, it is one of my favourite subjects today.
If I was to choose now I think it might be Thomas Henry Huxley who worked in the 19th Century and was a good friend of Darwin’s. Huxley did a lot of important work in his own right (e.g. showing that birds are related to dinosaurs) but he was also a fearless public speaker – he championed Darwin’s theory, something that Darwin himself was too timid to do. He liked to have arguments with all the people who disliked Darwin’s theory.
(Funny enough, I saw Huxley’s portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in London last summer and discovered that it was hanging beside that of Richard Owen, the first director of the Natural History Museum. I suspect neither man would be happy with this arrangement, since they despised each other in real life!)
Huxley was also very enthusiastic about introducing teaching science in schools (you have him to thank for the fact that science is now a core part of the curriculum!).