Brian J. Ford
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|Brian J. Ford|
|Born||1939 (age 74–75)
Corsham, Wiltshire, England
|Occupation||Scientist, author and broadcaster|
Brian J. Ford (born 1939 in Corsham, Wiltshire) is an independent research biologist, author, and lecturer, who publishes on scientific issues for the general public. He has also been a television personality for more than 40 years.
|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (February 2014)|
Ford has campaigned on the mis-use of forensic data in courts and the misuse of dangerous germs[vague], which have resulted in new laws being passed. Ford's current research interests include e-learning, for which he is based at the University of Leicester.
Ford's other publications range from microbial research and elucidating newly threatening infections to examining scientists' dissatisfaction with their lot. Other areas of his interests are the invention of a space microscope commissioned by Brunel University, to be used by European Space Agency, safety of the water supply and the rising incidence of head lice and bed bugs, his discovery of new phenomena in blood coagulation, the of plants excretory mechanisms of plants and investigations of the 'ingenuity' of living cells that alter our understanding of the living cell. Ford's proposal for biohazard legislation led to supportive articles in Nature and The Times and has led to the introduction of worldwide biohazard controls.
He has written papers on the development of science, such as an essay on scientific illustration and an 18,000-word essay on scientific publishing in the 18th century. One of his best known discoveries is the original specimens of Antony van Leeuwenhoek. They were sent to the Royal Society of London in the 17th century and remained there until 1981 when Ford found the Leeeuwenhoek specimens hidden in the letters and he then submitted them to extensive microscopical examination using both old and new microscopes.
His scientific papers on the development of science are often remarkably detailed, notably an essay on scientific illustration and an extraordinary 18,000-word essay on scientific publishing in the 18th century which is the definitive source for academics.
Ford has been active in diplomacy and politics, travels extensively and acts as a conference speaker and lecturer. He has also written for The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard, also writing for journals including the British Medical Journal, Nature, and Scientific American. As a student he had a weekly science column on the South Wales Echo and has since contributed columns for the Mensa Magazine, Boz magazine, The Listener and The Guardian.
Ford has been a guest on the BBC's Round Britain Quiz where he partnered Lady Antonia Fraser, and Any Questions?, presented the radio shows Science Now, Where Are You Taking Us? and Kaleidoscope, and was a founder-member of Start the Week on BBC Radio 4 with Esther Rantzen and Richard Baker.
Many of his programmes involve proffering unrehearsed answers to the public on scientific topics, as on the Cliff Michelmore series Whatever you think (BBC) and Science Hour with Clive Bull ( for LBC). On television he hosted a game show Computer Challenge and the documentary series Food for Thought in Britain and Jensheits das Kanals in Germany. His recent TV appearances include presenting The Man Behind the da Vinci Code and featuring in Weird Weapons of World War II, based on his two books about the Second World War (see below).
In addition to scientific research and academic lectures, Ford lectures extensively to general audiences, in the form of one-man shows on current scientific issues. A long-time science newspaper and magazine columnist, Ford's books have been published in more than 100 editions in many countries.
Ford is a Fellow of Cardiff University, Member of Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, an Honorary member of Keynes College, University of Kent, former Fellow at the Open University and Visiting Professor at the University of Leicester.
Ford is a Fellow of the Linnean Society, serving as a member of their council as their Zoological Secretary and is their honorary surveyor of scientific instruments. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Biology, a former member of their council and chairman of their history network. Ford edited the book Institute of Biology: The First Fifty Years which is devoted to the history of this Institute.
He is a Fellow of Cambridge Philosophical Society and has lectured to all the above mentioned bodies. In 2004 he was awarded a Fellowship by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Art, NESTA (London).
He was the first British President of the European Union of Science Journalists' Associations, founding Chairman of the Science and Technology Authors Committee at the Society of Authors, and the president of the Society for the Application of Research (SAR) in Cambridge. Ford has been a member of Mensa and was a director of British Mensa from 1993–1997, resigning a few months after being elected for a second term. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society in the 1960s.
Ford's first television appearances included playing boogie piano on "Donald Peers Presents", from Cardiff, Wales. Also in the show was the first appearance of Thomas Woodward, later known as Tom Jones.
Ford is a popular celebrity speaker on cruise ships including the Cunard Line ship RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 and for Seabourn Cruise Line has spoken aboard the Seabourn Spirit. He is a guest of P&O Cruises on vessels such as MV Aurora and the Arcadia; for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines on the Black Watch and Braemar; aboard the Regatta on Oceania Cruises, and for Celebrity Cruises among many others. His presentations are dynamic and largely extemporised.
One characteristic manifestation of Ford's iconoclastic streak is displayed in the title of one of his books, which he intentionally gave the longest and most complex title in English-language publishing history: Nonscience and the Pseudotransmogrificationalific Egocentrified Reorientational Proclivities Inherently Intracorporated In Expertistical Cerebrointellectualised Redeploymentation with Special Reference to Quasi-Notional Fashionistic Normativity, The Indoctrinationalistic Methodological Modalities and Scalar Socio-Economic Promulgationary Improvementalisationalism Predelineated Positotaxically Toward Individualistified Mass-Acceptance Gratificationalistic Securipermanentalisationary Professionism, or How To Rule The World, London: Wolfe Publishing (ISBN 0-7234-0449-6). The point of the sesquipedalian title was to poke fun at those who conceal their lack of real expertise by using long and complicated words, whilst making the serious point that more people are fooled by these so-called experts than really should be. The book is commonly referred to simply as Nonscience, which is itself a play on nonsense.
Also worthy of note is that Ford has also been a rock & roll keyboards player. He played with guitarist Dave Edmunds and has occasionally performed in recent years. Ford has been active in the diplomatic and political world and is a trained marksman. He can pilot aeroplanes, ski and scuba-dive. He is also an award-winning photographer.
2012 Aquatic Dinosaur "Hypothesis"
The April issue of 2012 of Laboratory News contained an article that has caused palaeontologists and other geoscientists to question the scientific integrity of the publication. The article by, written by Brian J. Ford puts forward the idea that all large dinosaurs were aquatic. Ford—a microbiologist—lacked any training in palaeontology, and more importantly had not presented any quantitative evidence in support of his idea. Nevertheless, the idea has been uncritically embraced by some elements of the popular press, including BBC Four, Daily Mail, Sky News Australia, Times of India, the Daily Telegraph, Top News, Cambridge News, Metro and IB Times. These publications have framed Dr. Ford's hypothesis as if it were a new idea and a subject of debate among palaeontologists, when the idea of aquatic dinosaurs was considered nearly a century ago, and rejected after careful research forty years ago. Threatened by the critical scrutiny, Ford later wrote a piece in his regular opinion column in the microscopy journal, The Microscope, attempting to defend his hypothesis while comparing himself to Galileo. Again, Ford never provided any evidence in support of his claim and relied largely upon study of the cells of extant species and criticisms of the portrayal of dinosaurs in popular media. When challenged by palaeontologists, Ford did not provide any evidence supporting his claim and relied on the premise of an implied conspiracy by recognised and peer reviewed journals.
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- Allied Secret Weapons: the War of Science; Weapons Book #19, ISBN 0-345-02097-9 . USA Ballantine Books, 1970. ISBN 0-356-03746-0, UK, Macdonald, 1970.
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- The optical microscope manual, past and present uses and techniques, ISBN 0-7153-5862-6. UK, David & Charles, 1973. ISBN 0-8448-0157-7. USA, Crane Russak, 1973.
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- Lensman microscope project manual. UK, Science of Cambridge, 1989.
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- Genes, the fight for life, ISBN 0-304-35019-2. UK, Cassells, 1999. ISBN 0-304-35019-2. USA, Sterling Publications, 1999.
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- "Exploring South Wales", chapter in Walking in Britain, ed J. Hillaby, ISBN 0-00-412272-0. London: William Collins, 1988.
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- Robert Hooke, an introduction to Hooke's Micrographia, commentary on CD-ROM edition of Micrographia, 1665 ISBN 1-891788-02-7. Palo Alto, Octavo, 1998.
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- "What Next After SARS?" (Severe acute respiratory syndrome), chapter in 2004 book of the year, ISBN 0-85229-812-9. Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2004.
- "Bird flu, the next pandemic?", chapter in 2006 book of the year, ISBN 1-59339-291-5. Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006.
- As editor
- Science Diary, annually 1967–1974. London, Charles Letts.
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- GRO Register of Births: JUN 1939 5a 88 CHIPPENHAM – Brian J. Ford
- Laboratory News p 20, 8 July 1991
- Laboratory News p 16, 12 January 2006
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- 'Eighteenth Century Publishing', chapter for Scientific Books, Libraries and Collections, published by Thornton and Tully
- Biology History vol 5(3), December 1992
- The Microscope vol 43(2) pp 47–57
- Spektrum der Wissenschaft pp 68–71, June 1998
- McCrone Research Institute (McRI) – Chicago, IL
- The Royal Literary Fund
- University of Leicester – Leicester Professor elected at Cambridge
- Institute of Biology: The First Fifty Years, Institute of Biology, ISBN 0-900490-37-3
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- Hay, W.W, Henderson, D.M, and Ford B.J. (2012). "Letters to the Editor". The Microscope. 60:4: 179–180