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« The BBC's climate problem | Main | Royal Society has lost the argument, cannot be trusted »
Saturday
Jun282014

Nigel Calder

I was sad to hear of the passing of Nigel Calder, one of the founders of New Scientist and a doughty fighter against establishment science. He was one of those figures whose standing as a man of reason was unassailable and who was therefore much harder to ignore. His championing of Henrik Svensmark helped ensure that fascinating work was not crushed by mainstream climatology.

I never met him, but he was kind enough to send me some nice words for the cover of The Hockey Stick Illusion and we corresponded from time to time.

There is an obituary in the Independent.

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Reader Comments (33)

The fight for truth always relies upon those with obligations to no one. Nigel Calder qualified and could be relied upon as a strong voice of reason.

Jun 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterDiogenes

I met Nigel, with at least one of his family, by chance, with my mother, coming out of Richard Bean's The Heretic at the Royal Court Theatre in 2011. I recognised him at once because of his hard-hitting contributions to The Great Global Warming Swindle in March 2007. It turned out we had all lived in Crawley at some point - though Nigel had pretty much all of his life I think. I wanted to say thank you to him and thought afterwards that I had made a bit of a hash of it! It was later that year that he announced CERN experiment confirms cosmic ray action with justified elation on his blog. An original and someone hard to write off as unreasonable, as Andrew says. My condolences to his family.

Jun 28, 2014 at 11:12 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Does anyone know for sure if it is true that the BBC dropped him, in the same way as David Bellamy and Johnny Ball, because of his view that the world was cooling not warming?

Jun 28, 2014 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterScribblingscribe

Paul Nurse as a replacement?

Jun 28, 2014 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterschadenfreude

What's the betting he wont get a mention on Radio 4s 'Last word' on Friday afternoon next week.

Jun 28, 2014 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterMicrotus agrestis

Condolences to his family. Jo Calder dropped by to leave a comment and a link at Tallbloke's Talkshop.

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Does anyone know for sure if it is true that the BBC dropped him, in the same way as David Bellamy and Johnny Ball, because of his view that the world was cooling not warming?
Jun 28, 2014 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterScribblingscribe

I don't know. But the Newsnight Bookclub did review his book in 2007, describing the Svensmark theory as "controversial" but enabling comments. The longterm science editor of Newsnight, Susan Watts, had her role made redundant last year. A physics graduate, she has since lamented that the media remains dominated by humanities graduates.

Jun 28, 2014 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

The climate blogosphere doing its sterling stuff on Nigel Calder's departure in this case includes the man himself, releasing chapters of unfinished books: I’ve gotta be driftin’ along. Continued surprises. :)

Jun 28, 2014 at 1:57 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Michael Hart

Another 2007 Chilling Stars Calder interview with Pan Pantziarka of the London Book Review, with some interesting insight

http://www.londonbookreview.com/interviews/nigelcalder.html

Jun 28, 2014 at 2:30 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Good portrait photo here:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/courtsocial/article3245125.ece

And some impressive Amazon customer book reviews here

http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Universe-Oxford-Modern-Science/dp/0198507925

Jun 28, 2014 at 2:43 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

When New Scientist printed articles about Science, I used to read it regularly.

Now it is a propaganda outlet for the Climate scam, I do not read it.

RIP Nigel......

PS the story about the great financial fraud, and the role of Obama back to Carter, is now emerging, see post by marcopar: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/27/rohrabacher-presidential-snow-job-on-global-warmin/?page=all#pagebreak

Jun 28, 2014 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

And a revealing, kindly paragraph from December 2011, Pharos (2:43 PM):

When his family asked him what he had missed out on in his 80 years, the science writer Nigel Calder replied that he had never been in a seaplane. “So they cooked up an amazing celebratory tour of Scotland in August focused on Loch Lomond Seaplanes, the only operator in the UK.” His winter diary is full of special occasions with family and friends including his wife Elizabeth’s birthday on December 23. He says “Birthdays shouldn’t be a scorecard, just a good excuse for a get-together.”

For those outside the Murdoch paywall. Thank you.

Jun 28, 2014 at 2:52 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I knew him. A great contributor to the fun of science, even in his autumn days. He could do the hard legwork of science journalism, but he could also step outside and produce a book like "Unless peace comes."

Pointman

Jun 28, 2014 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

How come it's only the "good guys" who die???

Mailman

Jun 28, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

RIP

Jun 28, 2014 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTomRude

Will be sadly missed. A great loss to the cause of realism and integrity in a world in thrall to chancers and charlatans. RIP Nigel.

Jun 28, 2014 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Reed

I imagine that Nigel Calder would have been dismayed by what became of New Scientist.

I remember his interview in The Global Warming Swindle when he pointed out how almost any research proposal now had to include a phrase such as "with special reference to global warming" to have reasonable chance of being accepted.

Jun 28, 2014 at 5:27 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Einstein's Universe made a big impression on me in my teens. Both the book and the TV series.

My condolences to his family. A great man and a role model for scientists.

Jun 28, 2014 at 5:50 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Thank you Andrew for letting us know of the sad death of a good man. When I was writing my two books on the global warming story some years back, I contacted him after reading his collaboration with Svensmark, The Chilling Stars, and he was unfailingly helpful in putting me straight on various technical points. I referred to him right at the start of The Real Global Warming Disaster because he was responsible for that major BBC documentary The Weather Machine back in 1974, which not only majored on the then fashionable "coming Ice Age" theory but was also open-minded enough to include an invaluable interview with Professor Bert Bolin, at that time the lone scientific voice for the opposite view,that the real problem was going to be man-made global warming. As we know, Bolin eventually put his case so powerfully to the international meteorological community that he, more than anyone, was responsible for the setting up of the IPCC in 1988, as its first chairman, But it was to Calder's credit that he included that interview in his documentary,(in the days when the BBC was still capable of giving airtime to a "contrarian" point of view). And of course Calder in due course became an early and splendidly trenchant "warming sceptic". I often think of him for his delightfully wry comment in The Great Global Warming Swindle, mentioned by one of the comments above, when he said that all an academic had to do to get funding these days was to relate his chosen topic to global warming, If you wanted a grant to do a study of squirrels in Sussex, you would get short shrift. But if you added "with special reference to climate change", the grant would instantly be forthcoming. What a valuably intelligent contribution he made to our national life over many decades.

Jun 28, 2014 at 7:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterchristopher booker

Sad news, Rest In Peace - Nigel Calder.

Jun 28, 2014 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

This Newsnight Paxman interview, with Nigel Calder confronted by Joanna Haig, on 14.02.2007

http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6360000/newsid_6366000/6366013.stm?bw=nb&mp=wm

Jun 28, 2014 at 9:21 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

I fondly remember some of Calder's early books, and used to enjoy reading the New Scientist in the 1960s. Now, on the rare occasions I buy it I seem to get through it in about 5 minutes flat. Nigel Calder will be sadly missed.

Jun 28, 2014 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

RIP Nigel Calder

Jun 28, 2014 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Modern New Scientist: - p32 Article (incomprehensibly written) on slightly bonkers Particle Physics/Cosmology theory that will never be heard of again... p40 Squibs on how global warming is making newts sterile, brand new metamaterial for knicker elastic, how some celebs brother-in-law said that AGW sceptics should be jailed, or fired, nobody's quite sure... p64 Hysterical rehash of slightly stale neurological theories that claim to prove that we have no free will (without ever really defining what they mean by "free", or for that matter "will") ...

Editorial on how awful global warming sceptics are.

(Er,... that's all. Ed.)


RIP Nigel. We will not see your like again.

Jun 29, 2014 at 12:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Gus

I'd never heard of Calder until I read The Chilling Stars, which he wrote with Svensmark. I think history will be kind to him when it becomes time to write the AGW story.

Jun 29, 2014 at 2:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Uncle Gus: :) Perhaps the best tribute I've seen.

Jun 29, 2014 at 2:14 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

"The Weather Machine" is most important to the whole climate scare story but I have only ever found fragments on the Internet. If anyone has had better luck, i would love to share the link.

Jun 29, 2014 at 3:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterBerniel

Dear Richard Drake
Thank you for your kind comments and condolences. They are very much appreciated by the family. I was with Dad (Nigel) when we met coming out of the Royal Court theatre having seen The Heretic. I remember the encounter very clearly - pleased be reassured that you did not in any way make a hash of it. Dad was extremely touched that you had taken the trouble to approach him and was very pleased to have met you and to have had a brief conversation with you. If he seemed at all distracted, it was simply that he was trying to coax a dodgy knee back into life after sitting in a cramped theatre seat!

Jun 29, 2014 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPenny Calder

The Magic Universe rekindled my interest in science. The several paleoclimate articles in particular were both fascinating as well as not fitting in well with the narrative of the day. He will be sadly missed.

Jun 29, 2014 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Dear Penny

It must then be judged to have been a gift to all four of us. As I was reflecting yesterday (to my sister, Penny, another Crawley alumnus) this is likely to have been my last trip to the theatre with my mother. In fact I think it's also the only time just the two of us went to something. I loved the play and, happily, it had enough great humour in it for Mum to get something from it. But to meet you and your father afterwards was a real gift to her, because of the Crawley connection, which she remembered when I mentioned it yesterday. So thank you for being there for us :)

Jun 29, 2014 at 12:18 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Like all good followers of science, he always seemed to keep in mind the "pleasure of finding things out"...

Jun 29, 2014 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterManniac

RIP Nigel Calder. Such sad news. I always enjoyed hearing his views, so knowledgably & broad & open minded to knew scientific ideas, so long as they held water so to speak. My condolences to his family at this difficult time.

Jun 30, 2014 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Well worth a read:

http://calderup.wordpress.com/

Jun 30, 2014 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

I very much liked and respected his The English Channel, which might have been the best book that I read in 2008. Somehow, I never heard the news of his passing (until tonight), and in respect to his independence, now there is one less courageous person on earth who can effectively deflate the theories of lunatics. May he rest in peace.

Mar 25, 2015 at 6:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Reed

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