Brian J. Ford

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Brian J. Ford
Brian J Ford.jpg
Born1939 (age 80–81)
Corsham, Wiltshire, England
OccupationScientist, author and broadcaster

Brian J. Ford FLS HonFRMS (born 1939 in Corsham, Wiltshire[1]) is an independent research biologist, author, and lecturer, who publishes on scientific issues for the general public. He has also been a television personality for more than 40 years.


Ford attended the King's School, Peterborough, and then Cardiff University to study botany and zoology between 1959 and 1961, leaving before graduating to set up his own multi-disciplinary laboratory.[2]


Ford has campaigned on the mis-use of forensic data in courts.[3] Ford's recent research interests included e-learning,[4][5] for which he was based at the University of Leicester.

Ford's other publications range from microbial research[6] and elucidating newly threatening infections[7] to examining scientists' dissatisfaction with their lot.[8] Other areas of his interests are the invention of a space microscope commissioned by Brunel University, to be used by European Space Agency,[citation needed] safety of the water supply[9] and the rising incidence of head lice[10] and bed bugs,[11] his discovery of new phenomena in blood coagulation,[12] the excretory mechanisms of plants[13] and investigations of the 'ingenuity' of living cells[14] that alter our understanding of the living cell. Ford's proposal for biohazard legislation led to supportive articles in Nature and The Times and has led to the introduction of worldwide biohazard controls.[15][16]

He has written papers on the development of science, such as an essay on scientific illustration[17] and an 18,000-word essay on scientific publishing in the 18th century.[18] One of his best known discoveries is the original specimens of Antony van Leeuwenhoek. They were sent to the Royal Society of London in the 17th century and remained there until 1981 when Ford found the Leeuwenhoek specimens hidden in the letters[19][20][21] and he then submitted them to extensive microscopical examination using both old and new microscopes.

Ford has been active in diplomacy[citation needed] and politics[citation needed], travels extensively and acts as a conference speaker and lecturer. He has also written for The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard, also writing for journals including the British Medical Journal, Nature, and Scientific American. As a student he had a weekly science column on the South Wales Echo and has since contributed columns for the Mensa Magazine, Boz magazine, The Listener and The Guardian.[citation needed]

Ford has been a guest on the BBC's Round Britain Quiz where he partnered Lady Antonia Fraser, and Any Questions?, presented the radio shows Science Now, Where Are You Taking Us? and Kaleidoscope, and was a founder-member of Start the Week on BBC Radio 4 with Esther Rantzen and Richard Baker.

Many of his programmes involve proffering unrehearsed answers to the public on scientific topics, as on the Cliff Michelmore series Whatever you think (BBC) and Science Hour with Clive Bull ( for LBC). On television he hosted a game show Computer Challenge and the documentary series Food for Thought in Britain and Jenseits des Kanals in Germany. His recent TV appearances include presenting The Man Behind the da Vinci Code and featuring in Weird Weapons of World War II, based on his two books about the Second World War (see below).

In addition to scientific research and academic lectures, Ford lectures extensively to general audiences, in the form of one-man shows on current scientific issues. A long-time science newspaper and magazine columnist, Ford's books have been published in more than 100 editions in many countries.



Learned Societies[edit]

Other positions[edit]

He was the first British President of the European Union of Science Journalists' Associations,[citation needed] founding Chairman of the Science and Technology Authors Committee at the Society of Authors,[citation needed] and the president of the Cambridge Society for the Application of Research (CSAR) of Cambridge University.[28] Ford has been a member of Mensa and was a director of British Mensa from 1993–1997, resigning a few months after being elected for a second term.[29][30] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society in 1962.


Ford's first television appearances included playing boogie piano on "Donald Peers Presents", from Cardiff, Wales. Also in the show was the first appearance of Thomas Woodward, later known as Tom Jones.

Ford is a popular celebrity speaker on cruise ships including the Cunard Line ship RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 and for Seabourn Cruise Line has spoken aboard the Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Encore. He is a guest of P&O Cruises on vessels such as MV Aurora, the MV Britannia (2015) and the Arcadia; for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines on the Black Watch and Braemar; aboard the Regatta on Oceania Cruises, and for Celebrity Cruises among many others. His presentations are dynamic and largely extemporised.

One characteristic manifestation of Ford's iconoclastic streak is displayed in the title of one of his books, which he intentionally gave the longest and most complex title in English-language publishing history: Nonscience and the Pseudotransmogrificationalific Egocentrified Reorientational Proclivities Inherently Intracorporated In Expertistical Cerebrointellectualised Redeploymentation with Special Reference to Quasi-Notional Fashionistic Normativity, The Indoctrinationalistic Methodological Modalities and Scalar Socio-Economic Promulgationary Improvementalisationalism Predelineated Positotaxically Toward Individualistified Mass-Acceptance Gratificationalistic Securipermanentalisationary Professionism, or How To Rule The World, London: Wolfe Publishing (ISBN 0-7234-0449-6). The point of the sesquipedalian title was to poke fun at those who conceal their lack of real expertise by using long and complicated words, whilst making the serious point that more people are fooled by these so-called experts than really should be. The book is commonly referred to simply as Nonscience, which is itself a play on nonsense.

2012 aquatic dinosaur hypothesis[edit]

The April issue of 2012 of Laboratory News contained an article that has caused paleontologists and other geoscientists to question the scientific integrity of the publication.[31][32] The article written by Brian J. Ford puts forward the idea that all large dinosaurs were aquatic. Ford—a microbiologist—lacked any training in paleontology, and more importantly had not presented any quantitative evidence in support of his idea.[33] The idea was reported uncritically in the popular press, including BBC Four, Daily Mail, Sky News Australia, Times of India, the Daily Telegraph, Top News, Cambridge News, Metro and IB Times.[34] These publications have framed Mr. Ford's hypothesis as if it were a new idea and a subject of debate among paleontologists, when the idea of aquatic dinosaurs was considered nearly a century ago, and rejected after careful research forty years ago.[35][36][37] When challenged by paleontologists, Ford presented a summary of recent findings, concluding that Spinosaurus was clearly aquatic, a finding later confirmed by paleontologists at the University of Chicago. [38] Ford claimed that only an aquatic lifestyle could account for the fact that the tails left no marks in trackways, and thus were buoyant, that many of their bones contained air-sacs, that the controversy over endothermy was solved through the buffering of a watery environment, and that so many skeletons were found in alluvial deposits.[39][40] He also argued that the shallow footprints, the positioning of the nares and the loss of functioning forelimbs in theropods can be explained only through aquatic evolution.[41] Critics showed that the idea had been rejected in previous decades. In 2018, he furthered this theory by suggesting that the hypothetically aquatic non-avian dinosaurs would have reproduced in lakes, and went extinct not because of an asteroid impact, but due to the disappearance of their "sex lakes", publishing his findings in his book, Too Big to Walk: The New Science of Dinosaurs. As with his previous findings, his book, as well as the new findings described in it, were uncritically acclaimed by the popular press. [42][deprecated source]


As co-author
  • "The recovery, removal, and reconstruction of human skeletal remains, some new techniques", chapter in Field manual for museums. Paris, UNESCO, 1970.
  • "Récuperation, enlèvement et reconstitution des ossements", chapter in Musées et recherches sur le terrain. Paris, UNESCO, 1970.
  • Brian J Ford explains why he considers Cardiff the most unappreciated city in the world, chapter in The Cardiff book, ISBN 0-900807-05-9. Barry: Stewart Williams Publishers, 1973.
  • "Discharge to the environment of viruses in wastewater, sludges and aerosols", chapter with JS Slade in Viral pollution of the environment, ed: G Berg, ISBN 0-8493-6245-8. Boca Raton, CRC Press, 1983.
  • "Sexually transmitted diseases", chapter in Sex and Your Health ed J Bevan, ISBN 0-85533-571-8. London, Mitchell Beazley, 1985.
  • "Las Enfermedades de Transmisión Sexual y Otras que las Imitan", chapter in El Sexo y la Salud ed J Bevan, ISBN 84-320-4570-5. Barcelona, Editorial Planeta, 1985.
  • "Exploring South Wales", chapter in Walking in Britain, ed J. Hillaby, ISBN 0-00-412272-0. London: William Collins, 1988.
  • Anecdote about Charles Bennett, with others including Edwina Currie, David Frost, Neil Kinnock, Jeffrey Archer and Humphrey Lyttelton, in Yours Truly – true life stories from the good and the great, ed A Frank. St. Peter Port, The Guernsey press, 1990.
  • "Sexually transmissible diseases and their mimics", chapter in Sex and Your health, ed J Bevan. London, Mandarin Books, 1990.
  • Robert Hooke, an introduction to Hooke's Micrographia, commentary on CD-ROM edition of Micrographia, 1665 ISBN 1-891788-02-7. Palo Alto, Octavo, 1998.
  • "Witnessing the birth of the microscope", photoessay in Millennium yearbook of science and the future, ISBN 0-85229-703-3. Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2000.
  • "Eighteenth-century scientific publishing", chapter in Scientific books, libraries and collectors, ISBN 1-85928-233-4. London, Thornton & Tully, 2000.
  • "Scientific Illustration", chapter in vol 4 of The Cambridge history of science, ed R Porter ISBN 0-521-57243-6. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • "Hidden secrets in the Royal Society archive", chapter 3 in Biological collections and biodiversity, eds BS Rushton, P Hackney and CR Tyrie, ISBN 1-84103-005-8. Otley, Westbury Academic and Scientific Publishing, 2001.
  • "Trouble on the hoof, disease outbreaks in Europe," chapter in 2002 book of the year, ISBN 0-85229-812-9. Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2002.
  • "Human behaviour and the changing pattern of disease", chapter in The changing face of disease, implications for society, ISBN 0-415-32280-4. London and Boca Raton, CRC Press, 2004.
  • "What Next After SARS?" (Severe acute respiratory syndrome), chapter in 2004 book of the year, ISBN 0-85229-812-9. Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2004.
  • "Bird flu, the next pandemic?", chapter in 2006 book of the year, ISBN 1-59339-291-5. Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006.
As editor


  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: JUN 1939 5a 88 CHIPPENHAM – Brian J. Ford
  2. ^ a b c d "Prof Brian J Ford announced as RMS Honorary Fellow". Royal Microscopical Society. Oxford, UK. 27 February 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  3. ^ Laboratory News p 20, 8 July 1991
  4. ^ Laboratory News p 16, 12 January 2006
  5. ^ Times Higher Education Supplement p 2, 18 November 2005
  6. ^ The Microscope vol 52:3/4 pp 135–144 2004
  7. ^ The Microscope vol 51:4 pp 209–220 2003
  8. ^ New Scientist vol 145 p 11, 18 March 1995
  9. ^ 'Merely going through the seaside motions', The Guardian p 23, 17 August 1991
  10. ^ 'Pediculus, bug with a lousy image', Sunday Times, 14 November 1971
  11. ^ Ford, Brian; Stokes, Debbie (3 September 2006). "A Bug's Eye View" (PDF). Infocus Magazine. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 3 (3): 4–15. doi:10.22443/rms.inf.1.8. Retrieved 15 March 2017.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Clinical Laboratory International vol 30(5) pp 12–13, September 2006
  13. ^ Journal of Biological Education vol 20(4) pp 251–254 1986
  14. ^ Biologist magazine vol 53(4) pp 221–224
  15. ^ The Revealing Lens, published by Harrap, pp 201–202
  16. ^ 'Call for law to control laboratory poisons', The Times, 17 September 1971
  17. ^ Chapter 24 'Scientific Illustration', Cambridge History of Science (ed: Roy Porter) vol 4 The Eighteenth Century, Cambridge University Press, 2001
  18. ^ 'Eighteenth Century Publishing', chapter for Scientific Books, Libraries and Collections, published by Thornton and Tully
  19. ^ Biology History vol 5(3), December 1992
  20. ^ The Microscope vol 43(2) pp 47–57
  21. ^ Spektrum der Wissenschaft pp 68–71, June 1998
  22. ^ McCrone Research Institute (McRI) – Chicago, IL Archived 15 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Cambridge Society for the Application of Research | CSAR".
  24. ^ The Royal Literary Fund Archived 4 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "University of Leicester - Scientist, Author and Broadcaster to Support University's Developments in E-Learning".
  26. ^ University of Leicester – Leicester Professor elected at Cambridge]
  27. ^ Institute of Biology: The First Fifty Years, Institute of Biology, ISBN 0-900490-37-3
  28. ^ "Society for the Application of Research".
  29. ^ "Mensa Elections", p.4, Mensa Magazine October 1993
  30. ^ "Musical Chairs", p.4, Mensa Magazine March 1998
  31. ^ "Aquatic Dinosaurs? Not So Fast!".
  32. ^ "When journalists attack!".
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Aquatic dinosaur theory debated". BBC News. 3 April 2012.
  35. ^ Sauropoda#Ecology
  36. ^ Henderson, D.M. (2004). "Tipsy punters: sauropod dinosaur pneumaticity, buoyancy and aquatic habits." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 71: S180–S183. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2003.0136
  37. ^ Kermack, K.A. (1951). "A note on the habits of sauropods". Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 4: 830–832.
  38. ^ Ibrahim, N.; Sereno, P. C.; Dal Sasso, C.; Maganuco, S.; Fabbri, M.; Martill, D. M.; Zouhri, S.; Myhrvold, N.; Iurino, D. A. (2014). "Semiaquatic adaptations in a giant predatory dinosaur". Science. 345 (6204): 1613–1616. Bibcode:2014Sci...345.1613I. doi:10.1126/science.1258750. PMID 25213375.
  39. ^
  40. ^ Hay, W.W, Henderson, D.M, and Ford B.J. (2012). "Letters to the Editor". The Microscope. 60:4: 179–180
  41. ^ Ford, Brian. (2014). Die hard dinosaurs. Mensa Magazine. March. 10-12
  42. ^ "Dinosaurs not killed by asteroid but by 'shortage of SEX LAKES'". 7 May 2019.

External links[edit]