John Gribbin

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John Gribbin
Gribbin at Novacon in 2014
Gribbin at Novacon in 2014
BornJohn R. Gribbin
(1946-03-19) 19 March 1946 (age 77)
Maidstone, Kent, England
OccupationScience writer and journalist
Alma materUniversity of Sussex (BA, MSc)
University of Cambridge (PhD)
PeriodLast half of the 20th century, beginning of the 21st century
GenreScience (origins of the Universe, astronomy, cosmology); biography; fiction
SubjectAstronomy and astrophysics; popularizing science and its history; climate change and global warming
SpouseMary Gribbin

John R. Gribbin (born 19 March 1946)[1] is a British science writer, an astrophysicist, and a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex.[2] His writings include quantum physics, human evolution, climate change, global warming, the origins of the universe, and biographies of famous scientists. He also writes science fiction.


John Gribbin graduated with his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Sussex in 1966. Gribbin then earned his Master of Science (MSc) degree in astronomy in 1967, also from the Univ. of Sussex, and he earned his PhD in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge (1971).[3][4]

In 1968, Gribbin worked as one of Fred Hoyle's research students at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, and wrote a number of stories for New Scientist about the Institute's research and what were eventually discovered to be pulsars.[5]

In 1974, Gribbin, along with Stephen Plagemann, published a book titled The Jupiter Effect, which predicted that the alignment of the planets in a quadrant on one side of the Sun on 10 March 1982 would cause gravitational effects that would trigger earthquakes in the San Andreas Fault, possibly wiping out Los Angeles and its suburbs.[6] Gribbin distanced himself from The Jupiter Effect in the 17 July 1980, issue of New Scientist magazine, stating that he had been "too clever by half".[7]

In February 1982, he and Plagemann published The Jupiter Effect Reconsidered, claiming that the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption proved their theory true despite a lack of planetary alignment. In 1999, Gribbin repudiated it, saying "I don't like it, and I'm sorry I ever had anything to do with it."[8]

In 1984, Gribbin published In Search of Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality.[9] The Spectator Book Club described it as among the best of the first wave of physics popularisations preceding Stephen Hawking's multi-million-selling A Brief History of Time.[10] Gribbin's book was cited by BBC World News as an example of how to revive an interest in the study of mathematics.[11]

In 2006, Gribbin took part in a BBC radio 4 broadcast as an "expert witness". Presenter Matthew Parris discussed with Professor Kathy Sykes and Gribbin whether Albert Einstein "really was a 'crazy genius'".[12]

At the 2009 World Conference of Science Journalists, the Association of British Science Writers presented Gribbin with their Lifetime Achievement award.[13]

Critical response to Gribbin's writings[edit]

The conservative political magazine The Spectator described Gribbin as "one of the finest and most prolific writers of popular science around" in a review of Science: A History, which it praises as "the product of immense learning, and a lifetime spent working out how to write in a vivacious way about science and scientists".[10]

Henry Gee, a senior editor at Nature, described Gribbin as "one of the best science writers around".[citation needed]

A review of The Universe: A Biography in the journal Physics World praised his skill in explaining difficult ideas.[14]

A Wall Street Journal review of Flower Hunters (co-authored with Mary Gribbin) described the writing as "pedestrian", with plenty of domestic detail but a failure to convey a larger cultural context. It stated that the book's chapter-length biographical sketches are too often superficial, and criticised the book for glaring omissions of prominent plant collectors.[15]

In a review of The Reason Why, the Times Higher Education states that Gribbin writes on speculative matters and presents some of his theories without supporting evidence, but noted his comprehensive research and lyrical writing.[16]



  • (1999) Almost Everyone's Guide to Science: The Universe, Life, and Everything, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-08460-9
  • (1999) Get a Grip on New Physics, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London. ISBN 0-297-82703-0
  • (1999) The Little Book of Science, Barnes and Noble, ISBN 978-0-7607-1687-8
  • (2003) Science: A History 1543–2001, Gardners Books, ISBN 0-14-029741-3
  • (2003) The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors, Random House, ISBN 0-8129-6788-7
  • (2006) The Fellowship: The Story of a Revolution, Allen Lane, ISBN 0-7139-9745-1 (the story of the Royal Society)
  • (2006) History of Western Science, 1543-2001, Folio Society, London [2nd edition of Science: A History, 1543-2001, with minor amendments and a new preface by the author].
  • (2009) Flower Hunters, Oxford University Press, with Mary Gribbin, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-956182-7
  • (2010) In Search of the Multiverse: Parallel Worlds, Hidden Dimensions, and the Ultimate Quest for the Frontiers of Reality, Wiley, ISBN 0-4706-1352-1

Children's books on science[edit]

  • (2000) Eyewitness: Time & Space, DK Children, ISBN 0-7894-5578-1
  • (2003) Big Numbers: A Mind Expanding Trip to Infinity and Back (coauthor Mary Gribbin), Wizard Books (children's imprint of Icon Books) 2005 edition ISBN 1-84046-661-8
  • (2003) How far is up? : Measuring the Size of the Universe (coauthor Mary Gribbin), Icon Books, 2005 edition ISBN 1-84046-439-9
  • (2008) Time Travel for Beginners (coauthor Mary Gribbin), Hodder Children's, ISBN 978-0-340-95702-8


The Sun[edit]

Quantum physics[edit]

Evolution and human genetics[edit]

Climate change and other concerns[edit]

Astronomy and description of the Universe[edit]

Origins of the Universe[edit]




  1. ^ "Dr John Gribbin's Biography". Debrett's People of Today. Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  2. ^ "A change in the weather by Gary Turbak" The Rotarian magazine, Aug 1980, p.17
  3. ^ Profile of John Gribbin at David Higham Archived 4 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Profile of John Gribbin at a Popular Science site (not related to the magazine)". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  5. ^ Mitton, Simon (2011). Fred Hoyle: A life in science. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-521-18947-7.
  6. ^ Kruszelnicki, Karl S. (5 November 2001). "Planetary Alignment – Part 2". Dr Karl. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  7. ^ Gedney, Larry (8 February 1982). "The Jupiter Effect: Article #526". Alaska Science Forum. University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. Archived from the original on 27 April 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  8. ^ Gribbin, John (1999). The Little Book of Science. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. p. 39. ISBN 0-7607-1687-0.
  9. ^ Kurutz, Steven (3 December 2009). "How to Boost Book Sales? For "Get a Grip on Physics," Tiger Woods' Crash Helped". The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy Blog. New York, NY: Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  10. ^ a b Macfarlane, Robert (28 September 2002). "Quod erat demonstrandum: Science: a history, 1543–2001, by John Gribbin". Spectator Book Club, book reviews. The Spectator. Archived from the original on 11 November 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  11. ^ Kenyon, Georgina (25 August 2002). "Firing interest in maths lessons". BBC News World Edition, UK: Education. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  12. ^ Parris, Matthew (26 December 2006). "Albert Einstein". Great Lives. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 26 December 2011. In the BBC radio 4 broadcast, Parris refers to Gribbin as their "expert witness". This is not to downplay the impressive credentials mentioned for Kathy Sykes.
  13. ^ "Winners - ABSW Awards - Association of British Science Writers (ABSW)". Association of British Science Writers. Archived from the original on 13 May 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  14. ^ Rowan-Robinson, Michael (June 2007). "Life, the universe and everything". Physics World. Institute of Physics Publishing. 20 (6): 46–47. doi:10.1088/2058-7058/20/6/38. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  15. ^ Garmey, Jane (10 May 2008). "The Age of Botanical Exploration: Flower Hunters by Mary and John Gribbin". Books, Wall Street Journal, page W8. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  16. ^ Dartnell, Lewis; Darracott-Cankovic, Chloe (12 May 2011). "The Reason Why: The miracle of life on earth". The Times Higher Education. TSL Education Ltd. Retrieved 30 December 2011.

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