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Professor Sir Christopher Llewellyn Smith
director of the Culham Division at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, chair of the Consultative Committee for Euratom on Fusion, and former director general of CERN


My interest in science was first aroused by Jack Turner, who brilliantly taught me (and Adam Hart-Davis, who was in the same class as me) mathematics between the ages of 8 and 13. I was also inspired by semi-popular books on astronomy and cosmology – by Arthur Stanley Eddington, Fred Hoyle, James Jeans and others – that I acquired from my maternal grandfather’s library after he died. Like my paternal grandfather, who died while I was an infant, my maternal grandfather had a first in mathematics.

I remember reading Fred Hoyle in 1954, when I was 11 years old, and deciding that I wanted to become a theoretical physicist or astronomer. I was attracted by Hoyle’s declaration that new theories are often controversial, and no theory is final. Nevertheless, I was totally convinced by his dismissal of the Big Bang, and his advocacy of continuous creation. His wit helped – for example, in a discussion of the vast number of planets in the visible universe, he says: ‘I find myself wondering whether somewhere among them is a cricket team that could beat the Australians.’

I conclude that great teachers and inspiring popularisations make scientists.