John Maddox : biography
Sir John Royden Maddox, FRS (27 November 1925 – 12 April 2009) The Times, 13 April 2009. was a British science writer. He was an editor of Nature for 22 years, from 1966–1973 and 1980-1995.
Honours / Affiliations
In 1995 Maddox was knighted. In 2000 he was made an honorary Fellow of the Royal Society. He was a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association, and a trustee of Sense About Science.
The AIDS Editorial 1983
Maddox penned an editorial in April 1983 entitled "No Need for Panic about AIDS", stating that "male homosexuals should be persuaded to change their ways" of "pathetic promiscuity" and describing AIDS as a "perhaps non-existent condition".
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 homeopathy claims.
The Sheldrake editorial 1981
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 behavior in nature, Maddox denounced it fiercely in an editorial titled "A book for burning?" 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 from physical and biological phenomenon when in fact there is every likelihood that the continuation of research as it is now practiced 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, in exactly the language that the popes used to condemn Galileo, and for the same reasons: it is heresy".
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.
Early life and studies
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 became a physicist.
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