There aren’t a great many television presenters who could make maths and science cool. Johnny Ball is one of them. From 1977 right the way through the 1980’s, up to about 1990, this man probably was children’s television in the UK.
He seminal show has to be Think of a Number. Starting on BBC1 on 12 April 1977 right up until 31 October 1984, there were a total of 36 shows, spread equally over 6 series. Running in parallel was Think Again, which ran from 9 January 1981 until 15 October 1985 with a total of 29 shows over 5 series.
Looking back on it, the guy just oozed class. If you want a comparison, he did maths and science in an OU (clothing) stylee for kids, but made it interesting, exciting, beguiling, fascinating. My best memory is when he took a cut out of the British mainland and proved that the centre of gravity of Britain was somewhere around Blackburn. Of course, this took no account of the height of Ben Nevis and the rest of the Scottish Highlands, but who cares? We didn’t, cos we wuz kidz…
He would dress up to portray famous mathematicians / scientists from history, from Galileo, thru Newton and Einstein to John Napier (the inventor of logarithms) and beyond. He also used to love the odd pun, such as ‘Why is the nose in the middle? Because it’s the scenter!’ They didn’t ever get any better than that!
Of course, there was a very wide range of topics, from energy, the body, materials, wealth, time, odds and probability, planes, gravity etc etc… It was great stuff, and a very important part of my childhood. Thank you Johnny Ball!
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