I was born in Highgate, North London in 1962.
I grew up in a tightly knit community that revolved around
Lanchester Road and the local woods - Highgate Wood and
Cherry Tree Wood.
I had a great childhood. My Dad was minister
in the local Presbyterian Church, my Mum kept the home fires
burning and my big brother put up with his little brother
better than most would. We all lived in a great big house
- the Manse - that only later did I realise we didn't own!
(One of the more invidious traits of being a preacherman,
then as now). I fooled around a lot with the other kids,
making go-kart's, cycling everywhere, trespassing on the
waste ground right behind the old sidings to East Finchley
Tube Station. I studied at a local primary school -Tetherdown
- then at William Ellis School in Highgate.
I was always interested in science from an
early age - my brother was a big inspiration to me - and when I got towards 'O' and
'A' levels I got interested in biology. I went to Bristol University where
I started in Botany, then moved to Zoology and finally decided
to specialise in Palaeontology! As I recount in ARCHITECTS
OF ETERNITY the late but very great Bob Savage took
me under his wing and allowed my scientific interests to
really unfurl. From Bristol I went to Cambridge where I
studied with Nick Shackleton (later to become Professor Sir Nick Shackleton)
for my Ph.D investigating the relationship between evolution
of oceanic microplankton and climate change.
It was at Cambridge that I met my wife - Julie
- who was working in Nick's lab. In 1988 we moved to Oxford where I worked under joint fellowships, one at Jesus College and another
funded by the government. In Oxford we set up a lab devoted
to unravelling climate change in the geological record.
Julie and I have written dozens of scientific papers together
and we've been lucky in our collaborators and graduate students. In 1994 and 2000 our beautiful daughters Jessica and Susannah were born. We all live together in a roomy cottage in West Oxfordshire overlooking the back of Blenheim Palace. It is an idyllic existence.
In about 1996 I realised that I could
go on churning out scientific papers for ever but that this
was getting progressively more unfulfilling. It was not
enough. I finally figured out that I wanted - needed really
- to communicate the fun and the mystery of science to a
bigger audience, the one's who pay for the science to be
done in the first place, while also pursuing my scientific
career. That's when I started writing for the trade market.
I try and make my books as much fun to read as possible -
I like to think that I've got a sense of humour - and right
now I'm concentrating on my non-fiction. There's so much
cool science out there that need's communicating and it
accumulates faster every day.
I've written two books, ARCHITECTS
OF ETERNITY and THE SILENT LANDSCAPE. You'll find them reviewed here and here respectively.
I'm working on my third book, LIVES OF THE PLANETS: A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM, at the moment. It's scheduled for publication in Spring 2007.
In 2004 I joined the Open University. I am currently involved in course work for them writing parts of S278 (Earth's Natural Resources) and S279 (History of Earth and Life) as well as researching the geological history of methane hydrate events and climate change during the age of the dinosaurs.
In recent years I've become very involved with science communication through other media. Check out my Lectures, Radio and TV page for more details.