Brian Clegg

Biography

Born in Rochdale, Lancashire, UK, Brian attended the Manchester Grammar School, then read Natural Sciences (specializing in experimental physics) at Cambridge University. After graduating, he spent a year at Lancaster University where he gained a second MA in Operational Research, a discipline developed during the Second World War to apply mathematics and probability to warfare and since widely applied to business problem solving.

From Lancaster, he joined British Airways, where he formed a new department tasked with developing hi-tech solutions for the airline. His emphasis on innovation led to working with creativity guru Dr. Edward de Bono, and in 1994 he left BA to set up his own creativity consultancy, running courses on the development of ideas and the solution of business problems. His clients include the BBC, the Met Office, Sony, GlaxoSmithKline, the Treasury, Royal Bank of Scotland and many others.

Brian now concentrates on writing popular science books, with topics ranging from infinity to 'how to build a time machine.' He has also written regular columns, features and reviews for numerous magazines and newspapers, including Nature, BBC Focus, BBC History, Good Housekeeping, The Times, The Observer, Playboy, The Wall Street Journal and Physics World. His books have been translated into many languages, including German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Turkish, Norwegian, and Indonesian.

Brian has given sell-out lectures at the Royal Institution in London and has spoken at venues from Oxford and Cambridge Universities to Cheltenham Festival of Science. He has also contributed to radio and TV programmes, and is a popular speaker at schools. Most recently he appeared with the BBC's business editor, Robert Peston, teaching him quantum theory, took part in a feature on time travel to accompany the movie Looper and took part in the University Challenge Christmas Special. Brian is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Member of the Institute of Physics, was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Bristol University and is also editor of the successful www.popularscience.co.uk book review site.

Bibliography

It has been pointed out that there isn't a complete bibliography of Brian's books - so for completists, here it is:

SCIENCE/MATHS
A Brief History of Infinity
A Crash Course: Mathematics (with Peet Morris)
A Crash Course: Physics
A Crash Course: Quantum Theory
Are Numbers Real?
Armageddon Science
Before the Big Bang
Big Data
Biographic Einstein
Biographic Tesla
Cracking Quantum Physics
Dark Matter and Dark Energy
Dice World
Ecologic
Essential Science
Everyday Chaos
Exploring the Universe
Exploring the Weather
Extra Sensory
Final Frontier
Getting Science (for primary school teachers)
Gravitational Waves
Gravity
How it all Works (with Adam Dant)
How Many Moons Does the Earth Have?
How to Build a Time Machine (aka Build Your Own Time Machine)
Inflight Science
Instant Egghead Physics
Introducing Infinity (with Oliver Pugh)
Light Years
Professor Maxwell’s Duplicitous Demon
Quantum Computing
Roger Bacon: The First Scientist
Science for Life
Scientifica Historica
Ten Billion Tomorrows
Ten Days in Physics that Shook the World
Ten Patterns that Explain the Universe
Ten Physicists who Transformed our Understanding of Reality (with Rhodri Evans)
Ten Short Lessons: Time Travel
The Global Warming Survival Kit
The God Effect
The Graphene Revolution
The Man Who Stopped Time
The Quantum Age
The Reality Frame
The Universe Inside You
Upgrade Me
What Colour is the Sun?
What Do You Think You Are?
What if Einstein was Wrong?


FICTION
A Fall from Grace (A Stephen Capel novel)
A Lonely Height (A Stephen Capel novel)
A Spotless Rose (A Stephen Capel novel)
A Timely Confession (A Stephen Capel novel)
A Twisted Harmony (A Stephen Capel novel)
An End to Innocence (A Stephen Capel novel)
Conundrum – 100 puzzles and code-breaking challenges
Make Your Own Mystery (Murder Mystery Party Games)
Oberland
Organizing a Murder (Murder Mystery Party Games)
Transatlantic Tragedy (A Murder Mystery Party Game)
Xenostorm: Rising


BUSINESS
Business Creativity (with Paul Birch)
Capturing Customers' Hearts
Crash Course in Creativity (with Paul Birch)
Crash Course in Managing People (with Paul Birch)
Crash Course in Personal Development
Creativity and Innovation for Managers
Disorganization (with Paul Birch)
Imagination Engineering (with Paul Birch)
Instant Brainpower
Instant Creativity (with Paul Birch)
Instant Interviewing
Instant Motivation
Instant Negotiation
Instant Stress Management
Instant Teamwork (with Paul Birch)
Instant Time Management
Mindstorm
Mining the Internet
Sustainable Busiiness
The Chameleon Manager
The Invisible Customer
Training Plus

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
30-Second Einstein
30-Second Energy
30-Second Newton
30-Second Physics
30-Second Quantum Theory

OTHER

Studying Creatively
Studying using the Web
The Complete Flyer's Handbook
The Non-Fiction Agent

Interview

In an interview, Brian talks about being a popular science writer:

What started you on writing?
I've written things as long as I can remember. At junior school I produced a series of comics (the artwork was awful), and later on I was always writing short stories. My first attempt to write a novel was in my teens. I never really stopped writing, but when I worked at British Airways I had limited time for it. It was about this time that I took a logical look at what I was doing. Instead of just writing the first thing that came into my head, I looked for promising markets. Initially this meant writing for computer magazines, then business magazines and business books before making it to popular science.

Whatever happened I would have written - there's just something inside that makes it happen, and I wanted that writing to be published. I do regret that the school system, certainly when I was in my teens, forced a decision between sciences and the arts. I would have loved to have studied some combination like physics, maths and english. Eventually I did break through, but I think it would have been sooner if I'd more early opportunities to develop my writing skills.

Is it hard to keep focussed?
It's the question I get asked most. Given a lot of my working day is just sitting around at home, don't I keep getting distracted from work? In fact it's no problem. It's not so much that I'm hugely organized, as that I really want to do write, and so I do get round to it. Having said that, like practically everyone I really do have to apply a bit of self-discipline. My natural tendency when I sit down at the computer is to spend as much time as possible checking me e-mail, reading journals and so on - I do have to force myself to get started, but once I do, I wonder why it was a problem because I enjoy it so much.

It is, to be honest, a great job if you don't mind being on your own a lot. I take my dog (a golden retriever) for a walk midmorning most days, and I look out at all the offices and factories that I can see from the nearby fields, and think how lucky I am to be able to go for that walk when I want to. To be fair though, the walk is very much part of the working day - I have almost all my best ideas on these walks, and always take a voice recorder to capture ideas as I go.

Why do you write popular science?
Science has always fascinated me. There is a sense of wonder about the more amazing aspects of science that really isn't duplicated in any other subject. It's a childlike thing - it takes you back to the best bits of being a child - without being childish. The trouble is, it is often put across in a dull way, and I relish the opportunity to do it differently. It's also because it's a subject I've always enjoyed as a reader.

Who are your favourite writers?
I am very eclectic in my reading. In fiction I do read a fair amount of science fiction and fantasy - my favourites are Gene Wolfe on the serious side and Robert Rankin as a humorist (and J. G. Ballard if I want to feel miserable) - but I'm equally likely to be reading P. G. Wodehouse,  P. D. James, Margery Allingham or Jane Austen. Of the other popular science authors, I'm particularly fond of James Gleick, and Simon Singh is always good value for money, but again I read fairly widely in non-fiction.

Do you prefer writing about people or about science?
The simple answer is 'yes'. I think that writing a pure biography misses out on the edge I have in being able to explain scientific topics, but science alone lacks a roundness it gains by adding the people factor in. I really wish there had been more about the people involved when I studied Natural Sciences at university - although I've always been interested in science, a lot of the topics were a lot duller than they would have been if I'd known something of the personalities involved.

Some of my books - such as Light Years and Infinity - have tended to be topic driven. Others - First Scientist and The Man Who Stopped Time - driven by an individual, but always for me it's the mix of people and science that makes the subject so fascinating.

Any advice for new non-fiction writers?
It’s harder than you think it’s going to be. Don’t bother unless you are very determined. Also it’s not good enough to have a great idea, you have to be able to sell that idea to an agent or publisher - and that can be harder than writing a book. I have put together a little guide with some advice on getting non-fiction published: The Non-Fiction Agent.

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