Jump to content

Adam Hart-Davis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Adam Hart-Davis
Hart-Davis, speaking at the Ratio Forum for Popular Science in 2013
Born (1943-07-04) 4 July 1943 (age 81)
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England
Alma mater
Adrienne Alpin
(m. 1965; div. 1995)
(m. 2010)
RelativesRupert Hart-Davis (father)
Duff Hart-Davis (brother)
Deirdre Hart-Davis (aunt)
Alice Hart-Davis (niece)
Scientific career

Adam John Hart-Davis (born 4 July 1943) is an English scientist, author, photographer, historian and broadcaster. He presented the BBC television series Local Heroes and What the Romans Did for Us, the latter spawning several spin-off series involving the Victorians, the Tudors, the Stuarts and the Ancients. He was also a co-presenter of Tomorrow's World, and presented Science Shack.

Hart-Davis was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2007.

Personal life[edit]

Hart-Davis was born and brought up in Henley-on-Thames, the youngest child of the publisher Sir Rupert Hart-Davis[1] (1907–1999) and his second wife, Catherine Comfort Borden-Turner. He was educated at St Andrew's Preparatory School, near Pangbourne, and then at Eton College, before reading chemistry at Merton College, Oxford.[2] He then took a PhD degree in organometallic chemistry at the University of York and spent three years as a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Alberta in Canada. Subsequently, he worked at the Oxford University Press, editing science texts and chess manuals. In 2004 he was awarded an honorary degree (Doctor of Letters) from the University of Bath.

He was married to Adrienne Alpin (m. 1965–1995), with whom he had two sons, Damon and Jason Hart-Davis. His second wife is psychologist Dr. Susan Blackmore, whom he married on 19 June 2010. His siblings are the journalist Duff Hart-Davis and Bridget, the dowager Lady Silsoe. He is an uncle of the journalist Alice Hart-Davis.

Career in broadcasting[edit]

Hart-Davis's work in broadcasting began in 1977 when he joined Yorkshire Television (YTV) as a researcher, working on material for Magnus Pyke, David Bellamy, Miriam Stoppard as well as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World.

In 1985 he was promoted to production work, producing the Fred Harris-fronted TV show Me & My Micro and the Johnny Ball-fronted Fun & Games, amongst other things. He also devised and produced the school science show Scientific Eye.

In the early 1990s Hart-Davis moved in front of the camera to present two series for YTV: On The Edge and Local Heroes. The latter programme featured him cycling around the North of England in his trademark fluorescent pink and yellow cycling clothes, seeking out places associated with the great innovators of science and technology. The bicycles were his own, as he is a keen cyclist, owning an early Burrows Windcheetah as well as a mountain bike fitted with an early front monoblade. This series was transferred to BBC2, where its scope became national, a different region being the subject of each episode. Big Questions, a five-part Channel 4 science series for young people that he presented received a BAFTA nomination in 2002.[3]

A new television series for the BBC called The Cosmos – A Beginner's Guide was broadcast on 7 August 2007 by BBC Two, and explored the latest ideas and experiments in cosmology. It was accompanied by a book of the same name.

He also appeared in TV advertisements for HM Revenue & Customs with the catchphrase "tax doesn't have to be taxing". Following a statement from Hart-Davis, in which he mentioned the level of complexities within the UK tax system, his contract with HM Revenue & Customs ended.[4]

Advocacy of the application and usefulness of science[edit]

Hart-Davis has a passion for raising awareness of simple benefits that science may bring to the quality of living, particularly in the developing world. One such innovation is the design of smoke-hoods from galvanised iron or mud to prevent the deadly effects of smoke inhalation from cooking fires inside houses in the developing world.[5]

He is the Patron of the FatallyFlawed campaign against the use of plug-in socket covers.[6]

He is also Patron of Erasmus Darwin House in Lichfield, the eighteenth-century home of Charles Darwin's grandfather, now a museum open to the public.[citation needed]


Published works[edit]

He has written many books, including a history of the toilet, entitled Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper, and Taking The Piss (A Potted History of Pee).
Published works include:


  • Scientific Eye , HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (November 1985), (ISBN 0-7135-2584-3)
  • Mathematical Eye, Collins Educational (September 1989), (ISBN 0-04-448043-1)
  • Scientific Eye: Exploring the Marvels of Science, Sterling Pub Co Inc (Mar 1990), (ISBN 0-8069-5758-1)
  • Amazing Math Puzzles, Sterling Publishing; Reprint edition (May 1997), (ISBN 0-8069-9669-2)
  • Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper: An Encycloopedia, Michael O'Mara Books; New Ed edition (10 October 1997), (ISBN 1-85479-250-4)
  • Chain Reactions: Pioneers of British Science and Technology, National Portrait Gallery Publications (24 November 2000), (ISBN 1-85514-291-0)
  • What the Victorians Did for Us, Headline Book Publishing (5 August 2002), (ISBN 0-7553-1137-X)
  • The World's Stupidest Inventions, Michael O'Mara Books (18 August 2003), (ISBN 1-84317-036-1)
  • What the Tudors and Stuarts Did for Us, Boxtree Ltd (5 September 2003), (ISBN 0-7522-1556-6)
  • What the Past Did for Us, Publisher: BBC Books (14 October 2004), (ISBN 0-563-52207-0)
  • Why Does A Ball Bounce?: And 100 Other Questions From the World of Science, Ebury Press (1 September 2005), (ISBN 0-09-190268-1)
  • Just Another Day, Orion (21 September 2006), (ISBN 0-7528-7334-2)
  • History: The Definitive Visual Guide – from the Dawn of Civilisation to the Present Day, Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd (4 October 2007), (ISBN 1-4053-1809-0)
  • Eurekaaargh!! A spectacular collection of inventions that nearly worked. Past Times edition published 1999.
  • The Book of Time, 2010.
  • Very Heath Robinson, Sheldrake Press (2017), (ISBN 1-873329-48-2)



  1. ^ His father had previously been married to the actress Peggy Ashcroft.
  2. ^ Levens, R. G. C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900–1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 541.
  3. ^ "Big Questions". eagletv.co.uk. 20 August 2017. Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  4. ^ "My tax return was going well..." Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2009.
  5. ^ Smoke and its impact on people's lives Practical Action
  6. ^ "FatallyFlawed website". Retrieved 16 September 2012.

External links[edit]