John Maddox

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This article is about the scientist and writer. For the US Representative from Georgia, see John W. Maddox.
John Maddox
Born John Royden Maddox
(1925-11-27)27 November 1925
Penllergaer, Swansea, Wales, UK
Died 12 April 2009(2009-04-12) (aged 83)
Nationality British
Institutions
Alma mater
Academic advisors Charles Coulson
Known for
  • Journalism
  • Editing
Notable awards FRS (2000)
Spouse Brenda Maddox
Children

Sir John Royden Maddox, FRS[1] (27 November 1925 – 12 April 2009)[2][3] was a British science writer. He was an editor of Nature for 22 years,[4] from 1966–1973 and 1980–1995.[5][6][7][8][9][10]


Early life and studies[edit]

John Royden Maddox was born in Britain on 27 November 1925, at Penllergaer, near Swansea. He was the son of Arthur Jack Maddox, a furnaceman at an aluminium plant. He was educated at Gowerton Boys' County School. From there, aged 15, he won a state scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford, where he read chemistry, and King's College London, where he studied physics.

Career[edit]

From 1949–55 Maddox lectured in theoretical physics at the University of Manchester.

He then became the science correspondent at the Manchester Guardian, a post he held until 1964.

From 1964 to 1966 he was the coordinator of the Nuffield Science Teaching Project; after which he was appointed editor of Nature, a role he held from 1966 to 1973 (and 1980–95).

He was director of the Nuffield Foundation from 1975–79.

From 1980 to 1985 he was again editor of Nature. In 1990, he publicly investigated homoeopathy claims.[11]

The Sheldrake editorial 1981[edit]

When the book A New Science of Life by British biologist Rupert Sheldrake was published in 1981, proposing the theory of morphic resonance instead of DNA as the basis for shapes and behaviour in nature, Maddox denounced it fiercely in an editorial titled "A book for burning?" in which he argued that Sheldrake's ideas were pseudoscience. Maddox concluded that the book should not be burned but placed "among the literature of intellectual aberrations".[12] He elaborated in a 1994 BBC documentary on Sheldrake's theory: "I was so offended by it, that I said that while it's wrong that books should be burned, in practice, if book burning were allowed, this book would be a candidate (...) I think it's dangerous that people should be allowed by our liberal societies to put that kind of nonsense into currency. It's unnecessary to introduce magic into the explanation of physical and biological phenomena when in fact there is every likelihood that the continuation of research as it is now practised will indeed fill all the gaps that Sheldrake draws attention to. You see, Sheldrake's is not a scientific theory. Sheldrake is putting forward magic instead of science, and that can be condemned, with exactly the language that the popes used to condemn Galileo, and for the same reasons: it is heresy".[13]

The AIDS Editorial 1983[edit]

Maddox penned an editorial in April 1983 entitled "No Need for Panic about AIDS", stating that "for strictly prophylactic purposes, male homosexuals should be persuaded to change their ways...The pathetic promiscuity of male homosexuals is the most obvious threat to public health, but is probably no more serious now than it was before homosexuality ceased to be illegal." He described AIDS as a "perhaps non-existent condition".[14]

Big Bang Denial[edit]

In the late 1980s, as evidence for the Big Bang origin of the Universe accumulated, Maddox, who favoured the Steady State theory, penned an editorial denouncing the theory as "philophically unacceptable" (because he saw it giving a foothold to Creationists) and "over-simplistic" and he predicted its demise within a decade (when results from the Hubble Space Telescope would become available).[15]

Honours and awards[edit]

In 1995 Maddox was knighted. In 2000 he was made an honorary Fellow of the Royal Society in 2000. His nomination reads:

He was a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association, and a trustee of Sense About Science.

Publications[edit]

Maddox authored and edited numerous publications[16] including:

  • Beyond the Energy Crisis[citation needed]
  • Revolution in Biology[citation needed]
  • The Doomsday Syndrome[citation needed]
  • What Remains to Be Discovered: Mapping the Secrets of the Universe, the Origins of Life, and the Future of the Human Race.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Maddox lived in London, and spent time at his cottage near Brecon in south Wales, where he and his wife, Brenda Maddox, were involved in the local community. They had two children, Bronwen and Bruno Maddox.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "EC/2000/50: Maddox, Sir John Royden". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 6 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Gratzer, W. (2010). "Sir John Royden Maddox. 27 November 1925 -- 12 April 2009". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 56: 237. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2009.0024. 
  3. ^ "Obituary: Sir John Maddox", The Times, 13 April 2009.
  4. ^ Gratzer (2007). "Nature - the Maddox years". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature06241. 
  5. ^ Gratzer, W. (2009). "Obituary: John Maddox (1925–2009)". Nature 458 (7241): 983–984. doi:10.1038/458983a. PMID 19396135. 
  6. ^ Maddox, J. (1995). "Valediction from an old hand". Nature 378 (6557): 521–523. Bibcode:1995Natur.378..521M. doi:10.1038/378521a0. PMID 8524367. 
  7. ^ Campbell, P (2009). "Maddox by his successor". Nature 458 (7241): 985–6. doi:10.1038/458985a. PMID 19396137. 
  8. ^ Campbell, Philip (2009). "John Maddox 1925-2009". Nature 458 (7240): 807. doi:10.1038/458807a. PMID 19378388. 
  9. ^ John Maddox interview (1997)
  10. ^ Maddox, J.; Randi, J.; Stewart, W. (1988). ""High-dilution" experiments a delusion". Nature 334 (6180): 287–291. Bibcode:1988Natur.334..287M. doi:10.1038/334287a0. PMID 2455869. 
  11. ^ "Homeopathy Part 1". ABC TV. Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  12. ^ Maddox, John (24 September 1981). "A book for burning?". Nature 293 (5830): 245–246. Bibcode:1981Natur.293R.245.. doi:10.1038/293245b0. 
  13. ^ John Maddox on Sheldrake and Book Burning on YouTube
  14. ^ "No need for panic about AIDS. Acquired immune deficiency disease, now frequent among male homosexuals in the United States, is not this century's black death. The most urgent need is to understand what is going on". Nature 302 (5911): 749. April 1983. Bibcode:1983Natur.302..749.. doi:10.1038/302749a0. PMID 6843647. 
  15. ^ "Down with the Big Bang". Nature 340 (6233): 425. 1989. doi:10.1038/340425a0. 
  16. ^ John Maddox from the Scopus bibliographic database.
  17. ^ What remains to be discovered ISBN 0-684-82292-X (hardcover, 1998), ISBN 0-684-86300-6 (paperback, 1999)