Sir John Maddox, best known as the editor of Nature who transformed the publication into the behemoth of peer-reviewed scientific publishing it is today, died last week. Since then, I’ve been coming across many, many tributes to him online and reading them with delight. Perhaps delight is the wrong word to use, though Maddox was in his 80s when he died. What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t know much about him until he died and was eulogized by the internet, but the amazing things his friends and colleagues are saying about him really make it clear that this man was someone special.
On how ‘major’ and ‘breakthrough’ were banned words at Nature:
“Most scientific results are single bricks on a wall that’s already huge, big discoveries are just two bricks at once.”
Henry Gee on a trick that Sir John called the ‘Afghanistan Effect’:
“You write a little news story that says that nothing much has happened in Afghanistan, and people think ‘Goodness! Nature has coverage of Afghanistan’.”
“He led an assault on AIDS denialists and their supporters at the Sunday Times, and ended up in disputes over homeopathy, cold fusion and with Rupert Sheldrake, a parapsychologist. […] When your correspondent was a junior reporter at Nature several years after he had departed, she was advised that her first editorial was best written late in the evening with a glass of whisky to hand.”
If you read nothing else this week, please read these two delightful articles about Sir John Maddox. If you have a favorite of your own, or another tickling tale about him, please share it in the comments.