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Fred W Taylor
Halley professor of physics at the University of Oxford, and distinguished visiting scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology

The space age was dawning, and I wanted to be part of it. In particular, I wanted to explore the planets, and to be involved in designing and building the rockets and other machinery involved.

My headmaster at school advised me against taking an astronomy degree at university, which was my original plan. He suggested a broader and more basic subject, like physics. This turned out to be excellent advice.

The rest is just a question of persistence, driven by a passionate interest in the subject, and luck – which means sticking to what you love and taking chances. Now I’m involved in exploring every major body in the classical solar system.

Fred Taylor is author of books including Elementary Climate Physics (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and The Cambridge Photographic Guide to the Planets (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website.