Great scientist: this is your life

February 28, 1997

THE WORLD's greatest scientific thinkers are being given the chance to address posterity via a video archive.

Exhaustive, unedited interviews about their life and work have already been recorded with the physicists Edward Teller, Hans Bethe and John A. Wheeler. The geneticist Francois Jacob and biologist John Maynard Smith are next in the pipeline.

The archive is the brainchild of Graham Massey, a former head of science at the BBC, and Vitek Tracsz, who publishes the magazine Current Science. They hope to capture 50 of the greatest 20th-century scientists on film over the next two years. Interviews take up to three days and can use more than 12 hours of film.

Interviews are conducted by a fellow scientist, chosen by the producers and interviewees, and pitched at a high level. For example, Richard Dawkins will be interviewing John Maynard Smith.

Every interview looks chronologically at the scientist's life but differs according to the personalities and work of the interviewees.

"It isn't dry stuff," said Mr Massey. "The science is always at a high level, but, by and large, they have led fascinating lives and met fascinating people. It is their history. But it's also the history of the 20th century."

Transcripts will be made available in book form but Mr Massey said the visual image had extra impact. "There's something about seeing the passion and excitement in the person's face as they describe their work," he said.

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