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Dr. Adam John Hart-Davis (born on July 4, 1943) is a British author, photographer, and broadcaster, well-known in the UK for presenting the television series Local Heroes and What the Romans Did for Us, the latter spawning several spin-off series involving the Victorians (What the Victorians Did for Us), the Tudors (What the Tudors Did for Us), and the Stuarts (What the Stuarts Did for Us). He was also a co-presenter of Tomorrow's World, and continues to present Science Shack.
Born and raised in Henley-on-Thames, he attended Eton College (receiving A and S-levels in Chemistry, Physics and Maths but failing his History O-level), before studying for an MA in chemistry at the University of Oxford. He later took a DPhil in organometallic chemistry at the University of York before doing three years of a post-doctoral thesis at the University of Alberta in Canada. Subsequently, he worked at the Oxford University Press, editing science texts and chess manuals.
His work in broadcasting began in 1977 when he joined Yorkshire Television as a researcher, working on material for the likes of Magnus Pyke, David Bellamy, Miriam Stoppard and Arthur C. Clarke.
In 1985 he was promoted to production work, producing Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers, the Fred Harris-fronted TV show Me & My Micro and the Johnny Ball-fronted Fun & Games amongst other things. He also devised and produced the highly popular school science show Scientific Eye which was widely viewed in the UK and in some thirty five other countries.
In the early 1990s he moved in front of the camera to present two series for the YTV region: Local Heroes and On the Edge (a scientific look at the east coast region).
Local Heroes involved him cycling around the country in his trademark fluorescent pink and yellow cycling clothes, seeking out places associated with the great innovators of science and technology. He seems to have stumbled on the idea for this programme somewhat by accident - in the summer of 1990, feeling himself to be becoming a little older and little fatter, he had decided to pursue other ways of keeping fit than playing Squash so he bought a mountain bike choosing one in pink and yellow in order to be visible and stay alive:-
" One day I was staggering up the long hill from Birstall to Drighlington, when I spotted a blue plaque on what turned out to be Field Head Farm, almost overhanging the M62. Having discovered this was Joseph Priestley’s birth place, I then found he had spent his teenage years with his Aunt at the Old Hall in Heckmondwicke, which had become my local pub, and had discovered oxygen as a result of watching the beer brewing in a brewery in Leeds."Adam Hart-Davis felt sufficienty hooked by this brush with 'living history' as to tell all his colleagues about it -- and with such enthusiasm that his boss suggested that he should make a television programme. This was the beginning of the Local Heroes series of programmes.
Local Heroes was subsequently transferred to BBC2, where its scope widened from the Yorkshire region towards a nationwide coverage, a different region being the subject of each episode.
Since then he has essentially become the face of the BBC's output on science and the history of science. At the same time he is heavily critical of the standard of science output on British television (including, to a certain extent, his own programmes), which he sees as dumbed-down.
He has written many books, including a history of the toilet, entitled Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper (Thomas Crapper being one of the pioneers of the toilet's development).
Adam is the youngest child of the publisher Sir Rupert Hart-Davis (1907 - 1999), his siblings being the historian, biographer and journalist Peter Duff Hart-Davis and Bridget Min Hart-Davis aka Lady Silsoe.
He has received eight honorary doctorates and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
He is the partner of the psychologist Dr. Susan Blackmore. He
lives with her and her family in the west of England.
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