Johnny Ball

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Johnny Ball
Johnny Ball for Eureka! museum.jpg
Ball for Eureka! museum in 2019
Born
Graham Thalben Ball

(1938-05-23) 23 May 1938 (age 83)
Bristol, England
OccupationPresenter
Spouse(s)
Julia Anderson
(m. 1969⁠–⁠1972)

Diane Ball
(m. 1976)
Children4, including Zoe[1]

Johnny Ball (born Graham Thalben Ball;[2] 23 May 1938) is an English television personality, a populariser of mathematics and the father of BBC Radio 2 DJ Zoe Ball.

Early life[edit]

Ball was born in Bristol and attended Kingswood Primary School on the eastern edge of the city.[3] Later in his childhood the family moved to Bolton, Lancashire, where he attended Bolton County Grammar School. He left formal education with two "O" Levels, one in mathematics[4] and one in geography. He was called up for national service and spent three years in the Royal Air Force. He was posted to Wales as a radar operator and was later sent to Germany to monitor the Hamburg-Berlin air corridor.[5]

Ball began his entertainment career by working as a Butlin's Redcoat, and was an entertainer in northern clubs and cabaret. He was nicknamed Johnny after John Ball, who played for Bolton Wanderers from 1950 to 1958 and the name stuck.[6]

Television and radio career[edit]

Ball was a regular fixture on children's television from the mid 1970s and throughout the 1980s, presenting several series of popular science and technology programmes intended for children (including Think of a Number; Think Again; Think Backwards; Think...This Way and Johnny Ball Reveals All). He was also one of the hosts of infant education programme Play School beginning in 1967 and continuing throughout the 1970s and beyond. As well as appearing on screen Ball wrote jokes for some shows including Crackerjack.[7] All of these shows (except the ITV programme ...Reveals All) appeared on the BBC. Ball's shows were renowned for presenting scientific and technological principles in an entertaining and accessible way for young people.[8][9][10][11]

In 2003, he appeared on The Terry and Gaby Show in which he answered viewers' questions. In July 2004, he was named in the Radio Times list of the top 40 most eccentric TV presenters of all time.[12] In July 2012, he presented a Horizon special on ageing on BBC Four. He has starred in ITV and Channel 4 television adverts as well as radio adverts for the Yorkshire-based firm Help-Link.[13]

In 2012, Ball took part in the Strictly Come Dancing TV show, where he was paired with Aliona Vilani. A training accident in the three-week interval resulted in torn ligaments for Vilani, causing her to retire temporarily from the show. She was replaced by Iveta Lukošiūtė who, with Ball, went on to be eliminated in the first week.[14] Vilani returned in the final group dance alongside Ball. In a TV interview in October 2017, Ball claimed Vilani faked the injury, with Vilani denying the allegation and saying she would take legal advice over Ball's comments.[15] He was 74 at the time, and he is the oldest contestant in the show's history.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Ball's daughter Zoe previously presented Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two for BBC TV and currently presents the breakfast show on BBC Radio 2.

Ball lives with his wife Di in Buckinghamshire.[17]

Series guide[edit]

Think of a Number

  • Pilot: 2 April 1977
  • Series 1: 6 editions – 12 April 1978 – 17 May 1978
  • Series 2: 6 editions – 12 September 1979 – 17 October 1979
  • Series 3: 6 editions – 10 September 1980 – 15 October 1980
  • Series 4: 6 editions – 15 September 1982 – 20 October 1982
  • Series 5: 6 editions – 4 January 1984 – 8 February 1984
  • Series 6: 6 editions – 26 September 1984 – 31 October 1984

Think Again

  • Series 1: 5 editions – 9 January 1981 – 6 February 1981
  • Series 2: 6 editions – 8 January 1982 – 12 February 1982
  • Series 3: 6 editions – 7 January 1983 – 11 February 1983
  • Series 4: 6 editions – 13 September 1983 – 18 October 1983
  • Series 5: 6 editions – 10 September 1985 – 15 October 1985

Think!Backwards

  • Five editions shown over one week – 28 September 1981 – 2 October 1981

Think! This Way

  • Five editions shown over one week – 28 March 1983 – 1 April 1983

Think It ... Do It

  • Series 1: 6 editions – 11 March 1986 – 15 April 1986
  • Series 2: 6 editions – 27 February 1987 – 3 April 1987

Knowhow

  • Series 1: 6 editions – 8 March 1988 – 12 April 1988
  • Series 2: 6 editions – 25 October 1988 – 29 November 1988
  • Series 3: 6 editions – 2 January 1990 – 6 February 1990 (does not feature in series 3)

Johnny Ball Reveals All

  • Series 1: 7 editions – 14 June 1989 – 26 July 1989
  • Series 2: 6 editions – 3 August 1990 – 7 September 1990
  • Series 3: 7 editions – 18 March 1992 – 29 April 1992
  • Series 4: 7 editions – 5 July 1993 – 16 August 1993
  • Series 5: 5 editions – 8 August 1994 – 1 September 1994

(source: BBC)

Other activities[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Ball, Johnny (2005). Think of a number. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 1-4053-1031-6.
  • Ball, Johnny (2005). Go Figure!. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7566-1374-4. (American edition of "Think of a Number")
  • Ball, Johnny (1982). Johnny Ball's Think Box. Puffin. ISBN 0-14-031545-4.
  • Ball, Johnny (1987). Johnny Ball's Second Thinks. Puffin. ISBN 0-14-031819-4.
  • Ball, Johnny (1983). Plays for Laughs. Puffin. ISBN 0-14-031548-9.
  • Ball, Johnny (1979). Think of a number. BBC. ISBN 0-563-17755-1. (different from the 2005 book of the same name)
  • Ball, Johnny (2009). Mathmagicians. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 978-1-4053-3727-4.
  • Ball, Johnny (2011). Ball of Confusion. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-1-84831-348-4.
  • Ball, Johnny (2017). Wonders Beyond Numbers. Bloomsbury Sigma. ISBN 978-1-47293-998-2.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Zoe Ball on Radio 4 Desert Island Discs". Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  2. ^ "Ball, Graham Thalben, (Johnny), (Born 23 May 1938), writer, lecturer and television presenter; mathematical enthuser, since 1978". Who's Who. 2019. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U292278. ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4.
  3. ^ Johnny Ball "Why the Right teacher really does make a difference" Retrieved 7 November 2015
  4. ^ Johnny Ball – "Past Imperfect, Future Fantastic" – Wrexham Science Festival 1 of 4 on YouTube
  5. ^ Thompson, Danny (28 November 2020). "TV presenter Johnny Ball wants return of National Service for 'floundering kids'". Yahoo!. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  6. ^ Alex, Michael. "FEATURE: Why 1980s children's TV legend Johnny Ball is still 'thinking of numbers' ahead of Dundee University talk". The Courier. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  7. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Ball, Johnny (1938–) Biography".
  8. ^ Bellos, Alex (8 February 2021). "Can you solve it? Think of a number". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2021. ...Think of a Number was hosted by Zoe Ball’s dad Johnny, and to many Britons, this one included, it was an indelible cultural highlight of growing up in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
  9. ^ Bond, Chris (25 February 2019). "Johnny Ball - on maths, children's TV, being on the Cold War frontline and opening with the Bee Gees". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 9 August 2021. Johnny Ball was the bloke who inspired countless youngsters to become interested in maths and science through TV programmes like Think of a Number and Think Again.
  10. ^ "Johnny Ball - WHERE ARE THEY NOW?". The Express on Sunda. 11 July 2020. p. 68-69. Millions of us grew up watching Johnny 'Think of a Number' Ball, on children's TV from the mid 70s.
  11. ^ Hillery, Megan (13 October 2020). "Fun by numbers! TV legend heading to Deco for an entertaining evening of maths and more". Northampton Chronicle and Echo. Retrieved 9 August 2021. ...his sheer love for numbers has inspired passion and enthusiasm for the subject in millions of viewers over the decades.
  12. ^ "BBC NEWS - In Pictures - In pictures: TV's greatest eccentrics". 27 July 2004.
  13. ^ Johnny Ball Productions: News & Appearances Archived 17 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "BBC – Blogs – Strictly Come Dancing – Johnny Ball leaves Strictly". BBC.
  15. ^ 'Strictly Come Dancing': Aliona Vilani 'Taking Legal Advice' As She Denies Johnny Ball's Claims Huffington Post, 17 October 2017. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Johnny Ball tipped to join Strictly Come Dancing as oldest ever celeb". Metro. Associated Newspapers Limited. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2021. Johnny Ball has reportedly signed up for Strictly Come Dancing – and at 74 will be the show’s oldest ever celebrity participant.
  17. ^ Wintle, Angela (23 June 2019). "Johnny Ball: 'I'm a better investor than most advisers'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  18. ^ "A climate of fear". Science & Technology. BBC Manchester. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  19. ^ "Johnny Ball Potted Biography". iTeach. November 2006. Archived from the original on 23 August 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  20. ^ Kenber, Billy (16 December 2009). "Johnny Ball booed by atheists over climate change denial". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  21. ^ "The 'toxic wall' around children"The Sunday Times interview, November 2006
  22. ^ "University of Glasgow :: Story :: Biography of Johnny Ball". www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  23. ^ "FatallyFlawed website". Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  24. ^ "Raspberry Pi Foundation blog entry". 10 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  25. ^ "Metro (Entertainment)". 30 November 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  26. ^ "Russian Multiplication – Numberphile". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  27. ^ "Mesolabe Compass and Square Roots". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  28. ^ "Parabolas and Archimedes - Numberphile". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  29. ^ "The Volume of a Sphere - Numberphile". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  30. ^ "Area of the Q". YouTube. 9 September 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2022.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Rector of the University of Glasgow
1993–1996
Succeeded by